School body ‘lucky’ to have controversial consultant

The state body for monitoring school attendance has said it is “very lucky” to be employing a consultant who quit as director of children’s services in Britain following a damning report.

John Richards stepped down in Sep 2011 following a probe by Britain’s official body for inspecting schools, Ofsted, which found children’s services in Peterborough City Council were inadequate and in need of urgent improvement.

Mr Richards has been working with the National Education Welfare Board since the start of 2012 as an implementation project manager. He is charged with overseeing a new model aimed at tackling chronic absenteeism among some school children in targeted areas. His role is to support senior managers of the three integrated service strands — educational welfare service, home school community liaison, and the school completion programme — to implement an integrated plan to maximise student attendance, participation and retention. Staff working in tackling school absenteeism have privately expressed concern over Mr Richards appointment, but CEO of the NEWB Clare Ryan defended the appointment.

“I am aware of all of that [last year’s resignation] since the very beginning and I think we have been very, very lucky, really, to have someone who has been able to straddle the three strands and work very effectively for us,” said Ms Ryan.

Mr Richards’s role does not include responsibility for delivery of services and the NEWB said he was first engaged by the board between 2007 and 2009 following a tender process to review staff supervision procedures in the Educational Welfare Service.

He was commissioned last February to provide external support to senior managers within the NEWB.

John Richards stepped down from his position in Peterborough following the tragic case of Tyler Whelan, a five-year-old boy who died after he was kicked and beaten by Elvis Lee, his mother’s partner. Lee, who was jailed for life last month, had 56 convictions. A report into the case criticised “missed opportunities” by child protection agencies.

Ms Ryan said: “He didn’t have to [resign], he opted to.”

Later, in a statement, she said: “The board obtained excellent references, including one from his former employer, Peterborough City Council which commended his integrity and skill in his role as director of Children’s Services and listed his numerous achievements in childcare services.”

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