A teacher who earned £367,000 a year has agreed a secret settlement with a council to end a legal row about his controversial dismissal – leaving the community “not knowing what really happened” after a six-year saga.
Sir Craig Tunstall, formerly England’s best-paid primary headteacher, was dismissed from the council-maintained Gipsy Hill Federation in 2018 for “gross misconduct”.
Lambeth Council refused to reveal an investigation report into the case. But Tunstall launched a high court case against Lambeth and the federation for damages of more than £200,000 over claims of negligence and breach of contract.
But the local authority launched a counterclaim attempting to recover damages of potentially £500,000 from Tunstall.
Documents submitted to the court alleged Tunstall received unauthorised additional salary payments of nearly £300,000 that plunged the federation into deficit.
It was alleged the former head “caused or permitted” the council to pay him the additional salary without the approval of the governing body.
Tunstall’s representatives previously said no allegations of fraud or dishonesty are made against him and that it is not alleged that he was aware he was receiving unauthorised payments.
A judge was due to hold a trial on the case later this year, but a court order this month confirmed the case had been settled.
Council tightlipped on legal fee spend
An authority spokesperson said the details of the settlement, “which resolves” both Tunstall’s and the council’s claims, “are confidential to both parties”.
The council did not answer questions on how much it had spent on legal fees this week.
The Liberal Democrat councillor Matthew Bryant, deputy opposition leader in Lambeth, said the settlement “leaves numerous questions unanswered, particularly about the governance arrangements in the council at the time”.
“Ultimately Lambeth council taxpayers may never know how much this has cost them.”
George Turner, who helped found investigative think tank TaxWatch and has reported on Tunstall’s pay previously, said: “Many people who were part of the community are now not allowed to understand what really happened in their own school.
“No matter what happened, that in itself, is pretty outrageous.”
Tunstall did not respond to a request for comment.
A close friend of Tunstall said “no amount of money will give him back his health, career or reputation” after “six long years of him fighting for the truth and fairness”.
“It’s particularly appalling how silencing people through these settlement agreements is allowed, which is why he isn’t able to say anything himself.”