He was one of the most high profile teachers in Wales – but was secretly abusing girls

The ‘autocrat’ once wielded huge power as a headteacher and union chief but is now behind bars

He was once one of the most powerful teachers in North Wales – heading up schools and a senior figure in a teaching union. He had a reputation as an authoritarian who brought results – a benevolent dictator with a more caring side alongside the strictly imposed rules.But in reality Neil Foden was a bully, terrorising pupils and staff, using his position of power to silence those who dared to challenge him. He was also hiding a dark secret. He was sexually abusing a number of girls.Foden, 66, of Old Colwyn, entered teaching in 1979 when he was in his 20s. He made rapid progress and joined Ysgol Friars in Bangor as deputy head in 1989. In 1997 he became headteacher at Friars, one of the most high profile schools in north west Wales, with around 1,200 pupils.

He had a reputation for strictly upholding the rules, making him a marmite character who divided opinions. In addition he rose to become executive member for Wales in the National Union of Teachers, which later merged with another union to become the National Education Union.

This cemented his power base in the upper echelons of the teaching profession. It made him possibly the most high profile headteacher in North Wales. He was often called upon to give comments in the media, including talking about sexual harassment at schools in 2021.His empire was extended when he was also appointed strategic head of Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle secondary school in Penygroes. There were warnings about his behaviour though.There was a lost employment tribunal – where a reference for a teacher mentioned the teacher had been investigated for malpractice – but didn’t add that he’d been cleared. In this Foden was described as “autocratic” by the employment tribunal judge.

He was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in 2020. The Education Workforce Council panel heard allegations against Foden from three members of staff between April 2014 and October 2016.At the time, the UNINAIJA reported Foden’s fitness to practise hearing was told he “singled out” a teacher by blaming him for the cancellation of a school trip in 2014. The hearing was told the head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, Gwynedd, “should have appreciated the need for an independent and balanced investigation” before starting disciplinary proceedings.Four other allegations were not proved. Foden then hit the headlines in 2021 when it emerged the cook at Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle had been “instructed not to give food to any child” if school dinner debts were not cleared, even if they owed a penny.At his trial jurors were told a concern had been raised in 2019 with the local authority’s former Director of Education Garem Jackson about Neil Foden meeting teenagers alone but no records of the meeting were kept. The council did not investigate the matter when raised in 2019.

The former director of education Mr Jackson resigned from his post in 2023 for “personal reasons”. The local authority has since announced an independent review will take place to establish “what lessons can be learnt”.In September 2023 Foden’s sick crimes finally caught up with him when he was arrested by police. He was subsequently charged with 20 offences against five girls.In May this year after a trial he was found guilty of 19 of those offences, against four girls. Thanks to the bravery of his young victims he has now been jailed for 17 years.

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