BY ED WEST
THE HEADMASTER of one of the country’s most successful Catholic schools has been arrested over allegations of a £500,000 expenses fraud linked to a Cuban exchange programme.
Paul Patrick, 53, has also been suspended from the Cardinal Wiseman comprehensive school in Ealing, West London, for “possible administrative irregularities”. He denies any wrongdoing.
Fraud Squad officers arrested him at his penthouse flat in north London where he lives with his wife, Denise, a primary school headteacher.
The police are investigating exchange trips to Cuba arranged by Mr Patrick, who made educational links with the country after visiting a school there in 2003.
Cardinal Wiseman’s prospectus says that each year music pupils travel to the Escuela Nacional De Música to play and in return Cuban pupils visit Britain. The trips are understood to be funded through government grants and parental contributions.
Maggie Pound, the school’s chairman of governors, said: “We can confirm that the police are carrying out an investigation into alleged administrative irregularities at the school. The headteacher, Paul Patrick, has been suspended and the school is cooperating fully with the police investigation.” She added: “Suspension is a neutral act and is often undertaken where investigations of this nature are being made. No irregularities have been identified in connection with admission arrangements.” A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Westminster said: “The diocese is working with Cardinal Wiseman School and the London Borough of Ealing to ensure that the facts concerning the alleged administrative irregularities are established as speedily as possible.” Since taking over in September 1997 Mr Patrick has been praised for drastically improving a school once considered one of the capital’s worst.
It was named as one of the “top 10” schools in the coun try for value-added achievement at GCSE level, named as 18th most improved state school in the country in 1999, and as second most improved state school in London in the same period. In 2000 it was named number one most improved mixed comprehensive school in the country.
Two years later Mr Patrick was invited to meet Prince Charles at Highgrove, in recognition of the school’s success.
In the latest results 97 per cent of GCSE candidates received grades *A-C, putting it in the top 20 comprehensive schools in the country. The last Ofsted report concluded: “The headteacher provides the pivotal focus for the school’s vision which has led to continued and sustained improvement. The headteacher has a relentless ambition and drive to improve the achievement of all pupils.” However, the school still has problems. In November 15year-old pupil Carrington Mgbeanulu was stabbed outside the school by a pupil from another school.
Parents were told about Mr Patrick’s suspension by letter and pupils at the technology and humanities college were informed at an assembly.
One parent said: “He’s been an amazing headteacher, I wouldn’t have sent my children to the school if he hadn’t come along. He has been inspiring.” Mr Patrick, who was born in Belfast to a Catholic mother and Protestant father, has also been praised for his ability to motivate black pupils and for hiring ethnic minority staff, who now account for 30 per cent of teachers.
In 2003 he said that all prospective staff were asked what they think about the underachievement of black pupils, and their opinion of the Macpherson report into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, which found there was institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police.
He said at the time that he supported the Government banning schools from interviewing pupils and that there was no social or academic selection at his school.