Former school chief executive defending fraud charges described as “driving force” behind alternative curriculum centre

Lincoln Crown Court.

Lincoln Crown Court.

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A former school chief executive was a “driving force” behind providing an alternative curriculum for disruptive pupils, a jury heard today (Monday).

A former school chief executive was a “driving force” behind providing an alternative curriculum for disruptive pupils, a jury heard today (Monday).

Richard Gilliland, who was chief executive of the Priory Federation of Academies (PFA), denies defrauding the organisation out of thousands of pounds as well as employing his son, Kia, after suppressing a CRB check which revealed his past criminal convictions.

A jury at Lincoln Crown Court was today told that Mr Gilliland came up with the idea of sending disruptive pupils to a riding centre in West Bridgford to help tap their potential.

Former PFA teacher Mike Blakely told the court Mr Gilliland was a “driving force” behind the Alternative Curriculum Centre which was set up to help children who faced possible exclusion from the PFA.

Asked by Mark Harries, defending Mr Gilliland, if the centre proved to be a success Mr Blakely, who is now retired, replied: “Yes.”

Mr Blakely told the jury that in the summer of 2010 he was asked to organise a “taster day” for PFA pupils to attend the West Bridgford riding centre.

Under cross-examination Mr Blakely admitted he “got the impression” that Mr Gilliland already knew the manager of the yard.

“He (Mr Gilliland) described the place to me,” Mr Blakely said.

Mr Blakely told the jury he had no knowledge of whether the “taster day” was paid for or not.

The taster day was a success, Mr Blakely told the jury, and the following school year he was asked to organise sending pupils from Lincoln and Grantham to the riding centre. The arrangement ended when the PFA bought the Laughton Manor Equestrian Centre, near Sleaford.

It is alleged the PFA paid out over £2,000 in fees for Mr Gilliland’s son, Kia Richardson, to attend a course at the West Bridgford Equestrian Centre even though Mr Richardson was not employed at the time by the Federation.

Mr Blakely told the jury he knew Mr Richardson and did remember him being present during the “taster day” visit to the riding centre.

“He (Kia) certainly was there, he was the first person we saw, he welcomed us,” Mr Blakely added.

Mr Gilliland, 64, who now lives in Spain, denies six charges of fraud by abuse of position on dates between October 2008 and November 2011.

The PFA’s former finance director Stephen Davies, 58, of Abingdon Avenue, Lincoln, also denies three charges of fraud by abuse of position.

The trial continues.