The headmistress of a private girls’ school, which has taken pupils on trips to Kenya and fundraised for projects in the country, has been sacked and arrested by police investigating claims of expenses fraud.
Parents were told in a letter on Friday that 62-year-old Hilary French had been dismissed by Newcastle High School for Girls following a probe into allegations of dishonesty.
The school, which charges fees of up to £13,000 a year and is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, said the decision was taken after a ‘rigorous internal process’.
In the letter, the school explained: “We wanted to make you aware as soon as we were able to that Mrs Hilary French has been dismissed from her post as head of Newcastle High School for Girls following an internal investigation into allegations of dishonesty relating to expenses claims.
“This is a decision that has been made following a rigorous internal process. The police have also been informed.”
A statement from Northumbria Police said: “A 62-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of committing a fraud against Newcastle High School for Girls. She was later released under investigation and inquiries into the fraud are ongoing.”
Links to Kenya
Newcastle High School for Girls have organised a number of trips to Kenya, most recently last year. In 2015, the school fundraised for Labentera Nursery in Kenya, which was visited by girls from Year 12 during that summer’s trip.
It also has a long-standing relationship with The Purple Cow School, which supports girls who would not otherwise be able to gain an education. Pupils have taken part in fundraising activities to raise much needed funds for the school including the Family Dog Walk and Kenya Quiz.
In 2015, during a visit to Uganda, Ms French herself visited a girls’ school in Kamuli and a project in the capital Kampala which supports hundreds of girls and young women who have been sexually exploited.
The school has also hosted two entrepreneurial Maasai women from Kenya. In 2016, pupils were visited by a Maasai campaigner who fights against and rescues Kenyan girls from early, forced marriage and FGM and has been instrumental in setting up two widows’ villages and a primary school for rescued girls.