Police and Customs and Excise were called into St John Rigby College, a former grant-maintained school in Bromley, Kent, after a routine audit by the council uncovered 'serious financial irregularities'.
The investigation has resulted in the resignation of the headmistress, who is a former nun, the bursar and the chairman of governors. Three other staff have been suspended on full pay. Among the allegations are that the former head, Colleen McCabe, used school money to lease a Toyota Lexus at a cost of at least£500 a month. The vice-principal, the assistant vice-principal and the bursar leased Ford Escorts or Toyota Corolas. Education officers said that while schools often contributed to the cost of hire cars for the head teacher, it
would normally be on a modest scale, and it was 'most unusual' for so many staff at one school to be given cars.
The first was taken by Ms McCabe with three members of her family in July last year at a cost of about£700. The second involved the headmistress, the former chairman of governors and three other senior members of staff. It is understood the Threshers account had been run up over a number of years, but officers declined to comment, saying it was 'still under investigation'. A retirement party, given for a former governor, possibly using school money, is also under investigation.
Bromley director of education Ken Davies said he had not come across such a case in 25 years in local government. He added: 'The investigation is very wide-ranging. We are not ruling out anything at this stage, either criminal or civil proceedings'. He made clear that
investigators were still checking whether any expenses had been refunded and described reports that the total could add up to six figures as 'speculation'.
Bromley education committee chairman described the activities of the senior management team at the school as a 'torrid tale'. He said: 'I was staggered by some of the documents that our auditors were looking at. It was unbelievable'.
The 'irregularities' were discovered by council auditors in September after the 1,180-pupil comprehensive school lost its gms status and responsibility for its budget under new legislation.
An Ofsted report in 1996 described the school as providing a good standard of education.
'Financial planning and administration are good. The school provides good value for money', it said.