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Abbey School, Reading

(12 Posts)
mumsworth Fri 26-Oct-18 13:18:08

Some months ago I posted about a serious fraud at the Abbey School Reading, which was duly removed by moderators in case it compromised any legal proceedings. I accept that was the correct thing to do however, matters have moved along and sentencing was held yesterday (25th Oct 18) at Oxford Crown Court against Michael David Rowley. Mr Rowley pleaded guilty to stealing in excess of £530,000 from the school and a sentence of 5.3 years for theft and a (consecutive) sentence of 9 months for fraudulently gaining employment with the school in the first place, was handed down.

When asked in court where the money was, Mr Rowley refused to answer, though investigation reveals he bought a run down detached house around the time he began stealing - which is now apparently very 'plush'. My understanding is that there is going to be a 'proceeds of crime hearing' on the 4th April 2019.

It transpires Mr Rowley has two previous convictions for theft from an employer for which he received jail sentences (in 1989 and 2000).. so why was he ever employed by The Abbey School in the first place.?

But back in 2004/5 ..and in order to gain employment with the Abbey School, Mr Rowley omitted details of his criminal past on his application (through an employment agency - who no doubt were paid handsomely to check his eligibility, his application and references) and Rowley produced a CRB (DBS) certificate in such a way as to omit the two entries detailing his criminal history.

My concern is this. Matters involving DBS checks have moved on since 2005 and instead of accepting a copy of an existing certificate from Rowley, my understanding is that employers are now required to apply for a fresh DBS on prospective employees, regardless of whether the employee already has one (with a previous employment).

Moreover, it is deemed best practice to update DBS checks every three years.
I notice The Abbey Schol has just updated its policy on DBS yet still states "Periodic renewals for existing staff Regular DBS checks or barred list checks are NOT required by the School for existing staff unless there are concerns about their suitability to work with children. In this case, the School may carry out all relevant checks as if the person were a new member of staff".

I find this astounding and want to know whether The Abbey School - in light of this case - has initiated DBS updates on its staff. Not to do so is surely tantamount to negligence. Not only has Rowley cost the school a great deal of money, he cost another good man his job (sacked for failing to properly manage Rowley, despite being the person who uncovered the theft).. whilst the person in overall control of the finance office carries on as normal..?

Moreover, parents who had paid their fees were pursued by the school for non payment - through Rowley's meddling - unitl they could prove otherwise.

And finally, if Rowley managed to slip through the net and unlawfully gain employment with the school, surely the management should take steps to update all staff DBSs as a matter of urgency and to be able to 'draw a line' from which to go forward.

stephaniejroberts Wed 21-Nov-18 19:58:23

You must be a secret detective, you know a lot about this Rowley chap, how did you know he had past criminal activity, still don't believe that someone got hired at school in a position of finance who has a past history of offences :-|

Smiliechic Fri 23-Nov-18 18:31:45

There is an article in the Reading Chronicle - just search for his name and it comes up.

Guiloak Sun 25-Nov-18 08:14:12

It is not deemed best practice to renew DBS every 3 years I'm afraid. This used to be the case but no longer. You may with to look at the ISI rules on what checks are required before employing staff. Seems pre-employment checks were inadequate. I think focusing on the DBS is not where the problem is.

There should be sufficient checks and systems from the bursar/head/governors that such fraud should not occur.

stephaniejroberts Sun 25-Nov-18 17:51:47

I read the newspaper article it didn't tell me what he did in 1989 and 2000. Do you know or what court he was sentenced at, it could be an interesting read, thanks.

mumsworth Wed 08-May-19 09:26:12

I know because I ordered a copy of the court transcript. He was hired because he managed to con both the employment agency who put him forward, and the school management who made the decision to employ him. His references checked out and he doctored his DBS to omit the past offences.

mumsworth Wed 08-May-19 09:27:04

stephaniejroberts: He was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court.

mumsworth Wed 08-May-19 09:31:49

Guiloak: "Seems pre-employment checks were inadequate"
I would agree with you however this person was able to dupe the employment agency and senior staff at the school by doctoring his history. He plausibly produced every document asked for.

BubblesBuddy Wed 08-May-19 13:10:36

I have worked with state schools over many years and have been a school governor for many years. We crawl over finances!! I would be asking:

What on Earth were the auditors doing?
Why were other senior managers not familiar with the accounts? What were the governors doing? They have responsibility for this money. They should have sufficient expertise to read, understand and question the accounts. The financial management overall is appalling!

They also didn’t do due diligence. There are background checks that are easy to do for positions of financial responsibility and quite frankly the school has been lazy. It’s not up to the agency. The school employed this person and the buck stops with them.

The ex employee could be ordered to sell the house and repay the school. It shows a naive and unprofessional school and governing body I’m afraid.

mumsworth Mon 13-May-19 11:41:53

BubblesBuddy Thank you. Spot on. OK.. firstly, when Rowley was employed through an agency, references were supplied and he was required to produce his DBS. Due diligence was indeed carried out but when everything checks out what more is there to do. Rowley had apparently been quite clever in doctoring his DBS. Shortly before Rowley started his thieving the school lost its Junior Sch Head, Bursar, General Manager, Estates Manager and more, largely in response to the Governors choice of Head (a political decision over a sound business one). Rowley admitted an opportunity had presented itself. Yes I have numerous inside info sources. Yes, certain Governors should be ashamed of themselves and by all accounts, this new head - apart from being under-qualified - has had some torrid years since taking the helm. Girl deceased in pool, IT systems hacked (ransomed) and now this. The school has spent more on non disclosure agreement payments to keep its secrets secret than many businesses make in a decade or more. Even the press release to the Chronicle about Rowley was false. It was the Finance Manager who spotted the irregularities (not auditors) and not the Head of Finance as quoted in the Chronicle. "A spokesman for The Abbey School said: “Our head of Finance and Resources identified irregularities in the finance department last year." This is important as the Finance Manager, despite immediately reporting his findings to the Head of Finance, was sacked whilst the Head of Finance (with direct responsibility over Rowley) remains intact.. scapegoating at its finest. I don't regret sending my DD there (up to 2015) because apart from the eccentric old Head, there was a marvelous team of people who worked extremely well together. A look at the school's current financial accounts also shows a decline in numbers and reduction in fees. Why am I posting? I hate dishonesty and the current culture of management oppression doesn't encourage a motivated happy staff and teaching excellence.

Tweetster Thu 13-Feb-20 16:18:22

Hi - I was doing some research on this school as thinking about applying for a job. Is it really that awful? Is the Head terrible and staff morale low??

Thanks

BruceFoxton Thu 13-Feb-20 20:30:03

New head from Sept 2020 - currently head at Fulham School and was at SPGS. Lovely man.

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