Lack of scrutiny of academies to blame for Birmingham 'Trojan Horse' schools, new report says


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The Independent Online

Concern over the lack of accountability of the Government’s flagship academies is revealed today in a hard-hitting report from the influential Commons public accounts committee.

The lack of scrutiny of academies, which are answerable to Whitehall rather than local authorities, has been cited by Labour as one of the reasons firm action over the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” escaped public notice for so long. It was first brought to the attention of ministers four years ago.

In a report published today looking into the Education Funding agency, which is responsible for allocating cash to academies, the committee found the Department for Education did not have a proper vetting process in place to determine whether academy trustees or chief executives were “fit or proper” persons to run schools.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said: “In a very devolved system, as is the case with academies, a lot of trust is invested in the organisation, chief executive, principal and trustees for managing public money. However, the Department does not have a process for vetting those appointed as academy trustees or chief executives.” 

This is contrast to sponsors of free schools who do face a vetting process.

The report recommends ministers should immediately introduce such a scheme to ensure academies become more accountable.

Four of the five schools placed in special measures by education standards watchdog Ofsted as a result of the “Trojan Horse” investigation are academies.

The report also raises concerns about the practice of academy trusts awarding contracts for work to firms run by their own trustees, which, it says, is allowed under government guidelines.

However, Ms Hodge said such moves could be open to “accusations of conflicts of interest”, adding: “This serves to undermine public confidence.”

The report urges the EFA to reconsider its policy.

Mr Gove’s plan

* An investigation headed by the Permanent Secretary to look at the Department for Education’s handling of the situation following claims from a Birmingham headteacher, Tim Boyes, that he informed then Schools Minister of the problem four years ago.

* Four academies declared inadequate to be told the Government is minded to terminate their operating agreement - and appoint new sponsors to the school.  A council-run school will have its governing body sacked - and replace with a new interim board.

* Schools will in future be required to encourage British values in lessons - to avoid a change to an Islasmic culture.

* Teachers who bring extremist outside speakers into schools to be banned from the profession.

* Governors who reveal extremist tendencies to be banned for life.

* All schools to be told in future they could face unannounced inspections.