Controversial Academy Trust to close after funding withdrawn

Funding was terminated due to 'serious concerns about financial management and governance'

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A controversial academy chain has had its funding withdrawn and its schools are facing closure, it has been revealed.

The Durand Academy Trust (DAT) runs an infant and junior school in Stockwell, south London, and a boarding school for older pupils in Midhurst, West Sussex.

The Education Funding Agency said it had “serious concerns” about the way the trust was financed and managed.

In a letter to Durand’s chairman of governors Sir Greg Martin, EFA chief executive Peter Lauener said there had been “repeated and significant” breaches of the terms of the funding agreement.

The announcement follows a provisional notice sent in July, detailing a list of requirements the Trust failed to comply with, according to the funding body.

Academies Minister Lord Nash said: “Following much consideration we have advised Durand Academy Trust that we are planning to proceed with the termination of the trust's funding agreement.

”A provisional notice of termination was issued to the trust on 4 July because of serious concerns about financial management and governance.

“That notice set out a number of requirements.

”The trust has failed or refused to comply with six of the eight requirements we set out to address our concerns.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it has been done to safeguard the future education of Durand's pupils and to ensure public money and public assets intended for the education of children are managed effectively”.

Durand Academy has more than 1,000 pupils across its three sites, and was awarded a £17m government fund to set the school up for weekly boarders in 2014.

Sir Martin, the DAT's founder, made headlines last year after it was revealed he earned almost £400,000 in one year.

He retired in August 2015, but remained as chair of governors at the trust and director of a private business. 

The Trust will now be headed by a new leadership team.

Commenting on the closure, Dr Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the Trust’s failings were an indicator of how public money was being wasted on academies.

The independently run state schools have been widely criticised for their reported lack of accountability, compared with other publicly funded institutions.

Dr Bousted said: “Another day and another Academy Trust has run into difficulties, and unfortunately pupils are likely to suffer because of it. This shows, once again, that this way of running schools doesn't work. The Government has little oversight of the actions of school leaders, and little power to improve the way schools operate in these circumstances. This leads to a huge waste of public money that should be spent on children's education.”

Shadow schools minister Mike Kane said: “This is an extremely concerning case, which further exposes the Tories' failure to properly oversee academy schools and make sure taxpayers' money is being spent where it should be.

”The Tories need to get a grip of the academy system as it stands, rather than make the problem any bigger by adding more schools and academy trusts.

“It's clear what we need - good teachers in good schools, but every day that goes by shows the Tories can't deliver the change we need.”