I have finally moved on with my life, says former headteacher

MOVING ON WITH HER LIFE: Former Glemsford Primary School headteacher Liz Steele.
MOVING ON WITH HER LIFE: Former Glemsford Primary School headteacher Liz Steele.

A former Glemsford headteacher who was duped by an alleged IT equipment scam says she has finally moved on with her life.

Ex-Glemsford Primary School headteacher Liz Steele was suspended by Suffolk County Council in January 2012 over an investigation into an alleged laptop lease fraud which left the school saddled with £500,000 of debt.

The school’s governors were replaced by an interim executive board and Mrs Steele subsequently resigned before the debt was wiped by Clydesdale Bank and a criminal investigation launched into Direct Technology Solutions, the company which leased equipment to the school.

Mrs Steele and her son James Loker-Steele had been set to take Suffolk County Council to an employment tribunal last month, claiming constructive dismissal but both withdrew their grievances three days before the proceedings were due to start.

She said: “I know I pushed for the tribunal but it had put a great burden on me health-wise and I felt I could never be free of this while it was hanging over my head.”

Mrs Steele maintained that she had always wanted to seek an amicable resolution with the county council and said that she was glad the hearing would not be going ahead despite her thorough preparations.

“People were urging me to go forward with it and deep down I wanted to go through the documentation and show that I wasn’t who it said I was,” she said.

Mrs Steele added that another factor in her and her son’s withdrawal of the claim was their worry over potential costs, which she said had been estimated at as much as £20,000.

She said she has begun devoting more of her energy into her work as a governor at a school in Ipswich, volunteering and conducting research work at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral and spending more time with her husband Edward, who has suffered from poor health in recent months.

“I have to go on with my life,” she said.

“I am so busy now I am retired that I wonder how I ever had time for work.”

Mrs Steele and her husband also look after their two grandchildren when Mr Loker-Steele is busy with work.

After leaving Glemsford Primary School, he started working for a Cambridge-based company that develops speech recognition technology and has recently been working with departments in Scandinavia as well as the UK, meaning regular trips abroad.

“James has really landed on his feet and I am so pleased for him,” said Mrs Steele.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “Mrs Steele, the former headteacher, brought an employment tribunal claim against us, as did Mr Loker-Steele, the former ICT technician.

“The hearing of both claims was due to commence on August 5, however, both Mrs Steele and Mr Loker-Steele unilaterally withdrew their claims on August 2.

“We have maintained throughout that there was absolutely no merit to the claims and that the actions we have taken in respect of the school were both necessary and proportionate.”

Suffolk Police handed over the criminal investigation into the alleged fraud by Direct Technology Solutions to City of London Police’s fraud team.

Detective Sergeant Simon Russen, from City of London Police, said the criminal investigation was “progressing”.

He said: “I have two people on bail and several more who have been interviewed.

“There is currently no-one charged but I continue to work toward a positive outcome.”