Revealed: Police investigate lost £162,000 at academy school

Education Funding Agency seeking to recover money claimed to have been misspent by Glendene Arts Academy in Co Durham

Police are investigating allegations of serious financial mismanagement at one of the Government’s academy schools, fuelling demands for stricter controls over their financing, The Independent has learnt.

Officials from the Education Funding Agency, which oversees the funding of free schools and academies, are seeking to recover at least £162,000 claimed to have been misspent by Glendene Arts Academy, a specialist visual arts academy for pupils with special needs in Easington Colliery, Co Durham.

A Department for Education (DfE) investigation report followed an inspection by auditors last year, prompted by whistle-blower claims over the use of academy resources to pay the salaries of employees as well as the running costs of a private company. The report, which was dated November 2013, was published only last Friday.

It prompted demands from teachers’ leaders for a tighter accountability regime to monitor the finances of free schools and academies, which have been pushed by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general-secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Once again we have a situation where a lack of accountability and democratic oversight has resulted in a police investigation into what we can only assume to be suspected criminal activities.”

He added: “It is clear beyond doubt that the Secretary of State and his officials cannot do the job of overseeing thousands of schools.” Around 3,500 state schools are now academies. Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, added: “The NASUWT is concerned that millions of pounds of public money is not being scrutinised by the DfE with the due diligence to safeguard the public interest.”

The investigation into Glendene Arts Academy revealed that the unnamed private company financed by the school – and set up when it was still maintained by the local authority – was meant to help in fund-raising and training as well as providing an annual dividend. However, a heavily redacted report by the Education Funding Agency said: “We cannot identify any discernible benefit for the academy in this arrangement: it has resulted in the loss of £162,000 that should have been used for the benefit of academy pupils.”

A number of staff have been suspended, although the report did not say who. Auditors concluded that the majority of the costs incurred since the school became an academy in 2012 went on staff salaries and expenses, while £718 was spent on mobile phones and £3,430 on the cost of supply cover. The equivalent of £4,326 was spent on “principal’s meetings” away from the academy.

The report said that four members of staff had been working for the company. It also found examples of possible “irregular” expenditure, including £289.94 used to purchase bucks fizz for the official opening by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2013. Concerns were raised by the EFA over the academy’s procurement policies and the use of emergency powers. No one was available for comment at the academy.

In a statement, the DfE said the financial accountability systems of academies and free schools were more rigorous than for those maintained by local authorities.

A spokeswoman said: “The DfE launched an investigation into Glendene Arts academy last year. This found there had been serious mismanagement of funds. The EFA is recovering the misappropriated funds from Glendene Arts Academy. The first recovery was made in January 2014 and the remainder will be recovered by April. The police have now started an investigation so it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The academy was ordered to draw up an action plan to ensure its financial management and governance complied with regulatory requirements. It is understood to be making progress and showing improvements.

The investigation into Glendene is the latest of a series of investigations into free schools and academies. In January, the founder and principal of the Kings Science Academy in West Yorkshire, one of the first free schools to be opened, was arrested and bailed by police.

Last year one of the biggest academy chains, E-ACT, was criticised for lavish spending on first-class travel, monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club in London and £393,000 of “financial irregularities”.

Mr Gove has outlined plans for the appointment of eight regional commissioners who would help raise standards and check on their performance.

Failing the grade: Troubled academies

Kings Science Academy,  West Yorkshire

A report by the Education Funding Agency in October last year found “serious failings” in the school’s financial management with allegations that £80,000 worth of public money had not been used for its intended purpose. Its principal, Sajid Hussain Raza, was arrested by police and has since been bailed.

Al-Madinah Free School, Derby

The school was described as “chaotic” and “dysfunctional” in a report by Ofsted in October. Schools Minister David Laws told the Commons there were concerns over breaches in the conditions of its funding agreement. It has been ordered to stop providing secondary education from the summer.

Priory Federation of  Academies Trust

In April 2012, an audit by the Department for Education found evidence of “serious failings” in the running of the trust, which operates four schools. These included its chief executive paying for horse-riding lessons for his son out of trust funds, receiving “personal items of an inappropriate nature” (sex games and supplements) paid for on a Federation credit card, and the use of trust credit cards “to purchase items at supermarkets and meals at restaurants” in France.

E-ACT

The chain, which runs 35 academies, was censured by the Education Funding Agency in May 2013 for lavish spending. It paid for monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club, first-class travel for senior executives in defiance of a ruling they should go standard class, and spent £16,000 on an annual strategy meeting in a hotel – of which £1,000 was spent on drinks and room hire.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Teacher Required We are curr...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution