On Thursday afternoon, just as most people were getting ready for the long Easter weekend, the government quietly published the findings of an inquiry into a chain of Academy schools in Birmingham.
The story was an embarrassment because the Tories are planning to turn all primary and secondary schools into Academies, claiming this will raise standards.
But if the Birmingham investigation is any indication, it also illustrates what happens when schools face less scrutiny, as Academies do.
The investigation found that a Birmingham academy trust, which runs five secondary schools in the area, paid nearly £1.3 million to a business which then paid a “second salary” to one of its headteachers.
It revealed that the Trust made payments of £1.297 million over two years to a business called Nexus Schools Ltd, which itself sub-contracted another company called Liam Nolan Ltd, whose sole director is Liam Nolan.
Liam Nolan is also one of three executive headteachers at Perry Beeches The Academy Trust, and its Accounting Officer and Chief Executive.
A letter published yesterday stated:
there have been serious breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook including serious concerns about financial management, control and governance.
This letter and its annex consequently serve as a written notice to improve financial management and governance at the Trust.
The investigation also found, according to Schools Week:
– The trust had spent nearly £1.3m with Nexus over two years, “without a written contract or formal procurement”.
– Payments were not detailed in the trust’s 2013/14 financial statements.
– The trust’s chair of governors had “joint business interests” with a director of Nexus – which were not disclosed in a register of interests.
– The trust’s 2013/14 financial statements did not disclose the Nexus payments.
And yet, the Trust is due to open another free school next year.
Perry Beeches The Academy Trust had earlier been praised by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and David Cameron as model schools.
But it turned out that regulations from the Academies Financial Handbook, Charity Commission and academies accounting rules, and trustee guidelines had been broken. But the issue only came to light after a whistleblower made claims that Nolan had been receiving a second salary.
Tell us again Prime Minister how turning all schools to Academies will improve accountability?