Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

School head suspended as Northern Ireland police launch cash probe

Principal Keith Elliott has been suspended while PSNI probe goes on

A primary school principal has been suspended from work while police investigate allegations of a financial nature.

But Keith Elliott, the headmaster of Carnalridge Primary in Portrush, has hit back at his removal, saying it came against the backdrop of a difficult working relationship with his board of governors.

Parents of 200 pupils at Carnalridge Primary have received letters advising them that Mr Elliott had been suspended by the board of governors after a PSNI investigation got under way.

The 43-year-old married father-of-four, originally from Belfast, but who has been living in Portrush for the last 14 years, took up his position at the school in November of 2010.

The nature of the investigation was not revealed in the letter, however the Belfast Telegraph understands it is believed to be of a financial nature.

Last night Mr Elliott, who has 21 years' teaching experience, told this newspaper that he was not permitted to discuss the ongoing investigation.

But he suggested he had a difficult relationship with the school's board of governors.

"I can categorically say I haven't been accused of anything," said Mr Elliott.

"An auditor's report has been passed to the PSNI.

"I can say that NEELB (North Eastern Education and Library Board) are aware that the board of governors of Carnalridge never wanted me to be appointed, even though NEELB felt that I was the best candidate for the job, already having been a hugely successful principal.

"I would like to thank all of the parents and children for their tremendous and overwhelming support and wish them a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and that I am looking forward to getting back to school to see them soon."

A PSNI spokesman would not be drawn on specifics of the case but issued the following statement to the Belfast Telegraph last night.

"Police have received a report in relation to an allegation of criminal activity. Enquiries are continuing," it said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the NEELB said Mr Elliott had been suspended from duty last week.

"We can confirm that the principal of Carnalridge Primary School is on precautionary, without prejudice, suspension from his post," he added.

"It is not regarding a child protection matter."

Last night a spokesperson for Carnalridge Primary School was unavailable to comment on Mr Elliott's suspension.

Carnalridge Primary School was established in Portrush in 1850.

The original school building was developed until 2008, when a new school was completed.

Around 200 pupils, mainly from Coleraine, Portstewart and Portrush, attend the school, which is located on the main road from Portrush to Coleraine.

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