Report into the finances at one Academy Chain

Fiona Millar's picture
 5
For those who are interested , here is the full audit report into Outwood Grange, the academy school referred to in this Daily Telegraph report.

OUTWOOD_GRANGE_Audit_report-final_version_030611read_only - Copy (2)

It is long, but worth reading as it gives a powerful insight how public money can be used, and misused in the new world of academy chains. Has a whiff of the MPs expenses about it with trips on the Orient Express for staff, crates of champagne to celebrate school success and private companies through which public funds were diverted to benefit individual academy leaders.
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Liam Collins's picture
Fri, 10/06/2011 - 06:17

Sorry it is not just chains...suggest you look at some the first academies to look at inefficient management structures. CEO, Executive Head, Head of Secondary, Head of Primary, Finance Director, HR Directors...lots of salary with how much impact?

Fiona Millar's picture
Fri, 10/06/2011 - 06:40

We would very much like to look at these figures. Unfortunately they are rarely publicly available and academies are not included in the budget tables now released by the DFE , one reason why we have started a campaign for more transparency in academy and free schools. The same rules should apply to all schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 10/06/2011 - 08:55

It’s worth quoting from the Telegraph report:

Re public accountability:

“Chief executive of Wakefield Council, said: “As a result of our audit we have uncovered a practice and culture of excessive rewards with, in our opinion, weak public accountability.”

Re misuse of public money:

“This report raises many serious issues about the use of public money, the scale and range of payments made, and the extent to which some individuals gained.”

Action to be taken:
“…we will be referring all relevant information to the Audit Commission, HM Revenue and Customs, Charities Commission, and other appropriate bodies for their consideration.”

Perhaps “other appropriate bodies” should include the police.

The school’s response:

“Outwood accused the council of having an “aggressive and hostile approach to the establishment of the Academy” since it left local authority control in 2009.”

Since when has an audit report been defined as “aggressive and hostile”?

According to the school a slush fund on the taxpayer is OK*:

“The school defended its financial practice and said that spending money on alcohol and trips had helped “improve staff morale”.”

And what’s this about a private company? And who gave approval for payments into this private company?

“Mr Wilkins had not been asked to repay any money because proper approval had been provided for payments to his private company.”

*And we mustn’t forget that Mr Gove thinks it’s acceptable that taxpayer’s money can be used to provide free private medicine for teachers in academies:

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6086010

Howard's picture
Sat, 11/06/2011 - 21:41

Unfortunately, I don't think that this report "gives a powerful insight how public money can be used, and misused in the new world of academy chains" as Fiona claims. As the report makes clear, the alleged "misues" of public funds occurred before the school became an academy, ie when it was a maintained school.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/06/2011 - 08:06

Howard is correct – the audit covered financial dealings before Outwood Grange College became Outwood Grange Academy Trust (OGAT). However, it is a lesson in how school funding can be diverted via unauthorised payments for items of no direct benefit to pupils. It also highlights what can happen when there is a blurring of roles between school governance and a private consultancy company run by a senior member of staff in a school. The audit also pointed out that only OGAT have the power to take further action and listed recommendations. However, the Council does not have the power itself to ensure the academy follows these recommendations because the academy is outside its control.

This highlights the problem of accountability in academies. A Council has identified financial irregularities in a school over a period of years but is powerless to act on its auditors’ recommendations because the school is now an academy. All it can do is to make bodies such as the Charities Commission aware of the findings.

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