Classroom monitor

The Education Secretary must do more to ensure that a sufficiently close eye is kept on academies' finances


The revelation that another of the Government's flagship academies is the subject of a police investigation following allegations of financial mismanagement is already fuelling demands for this sector to face a tougher accountability regime. Whitehall, it is argued, can no longer keep a sufficient check on academies, now that their ranks number thousands rather than a few hundred, as was the case under Labour.

It had seemed, towards the tail end of last year, that the Education Secretary had accepted the need for closer scrutiny, given that he unveiled plans to install eight regional school chancellors. Michael Gove's intention is that they will be responsible for monitoring academies’ performance and will have powers to intervene where necessary. But whether this will be sufficient to catch out rogue governors or principals inclined to dip their fingers into the till is debatable.

Labour, which asked a former Education Secretary to conduct a review of school structure, certainly thinks not. In an interview earlier this month, David Blunkett envisaged setting up a network of new bodies – probably at sub-regional level – tasked with a considerably wider remit than Mr Gove's regional commissioners, including spotting failure, monitoring admissions, commissioning services and ensuring financial accountability.

Mr Blunkett has described the current schools landscape as "chaotic" – and, indeed, there is widespread agreement with him on that. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief schools inspector and head of Ofsted, has described the architecture of the English schools system as “atomised”. Teachers’ unions, too, are united in calling for more accountability for academies and free schools.

On the face of it, then, it would appear that the plan for regional commissioners lacks some of the bite suggested by Mr Blunkett’s proposals – which are due to be unveiled officially next month. Of course, whatever the preferred solution – and it is easy to conjure up a picture of something that looks a bit like a local education authority – the remit will extend to free schools as well as academies. It is vital, though, that the Government – either this one or the next – gets it right.

The academies programme, which was started under Labour’s Lord Adonis and then strengthened and widened by Mr Gove, is one of the success stories of the past decade. Academies have seen their results improve at a faster rate than the rest of the state sector and some in the inner cities – notably Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, whose former headteacher is our current chief schools inspector – have achieved phenomenal success in obtaining places at top Russell Group universities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It would be unforgivably remiss if the future of Britain’s many outstanding academies was put in jeopardy as a result of a few individuals whose activities have sparked police investigations into financial irregularities. To ensure such an outcome is avoided, tougher monitoring arrangements should be put in place as soon as possible.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth