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.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
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

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments