Reflections on the Priory...

Sarah Dobbs's picture
 80
Having campaigned for over a year against the raise of academies in Lincolnshire, I am surprised not to be getting more of a kick from the Priory scandal (the details of which are outlined by Fiona in an earlier post.)
The reasons for the deflation are varied. But as a Labour councillor, much of the bad taste is because this scandal has been created by the previous government and then simply nurtured by this one. I am sure Lord Adonis and co must be very proud of the cronies they have inflicted on the tax payers of Lincolnshire!

And then there are the unanswered questions still.

I have had former employees of the shamed and ousted chief executive state that he always had a questionable leadership style and that they were stunned when he was appointed exec of the Priory Federation. How was he appointed? Is it true that the shamed and then jailed former Tory leader of Lincolnshire County Council, Jim Speechly, introduced Gilliland to Lord Adonis? I have heard that it is and would love to find out more. (When we do corruption and scandal in Lincolnshire we do it well!)

How was the Priory EVER found to be outstanding in financial matters? Time and time again they passed external audits, but it is quite clear from the DE report that the corruption had been endemic from the start.

How on earth did was all of this allowed to happen behind the backs of trustees and governors? I am sick to the back teeth of governors who fail to challenge and question the decision making of head teachers and executives. In this new academy world there is no place for nodding dog governors.

There is one issue that makes me angrier than them all. The Priory was our first Lincolnshire academy. The extra money they were given under Labour was at the expense of other equally deserving schools, many of whom had the rug pulled from under them when BSF was scrapped. The injustice created by The Priory drove many of Lincoln secondaries to early conversion under the coalition as a way to address the imbalance, particularly when the extra early finance payments became fully understood. As the Lincoln schools fell, so the rest of the county followed, aided and abetted by CFBT at the helm of the county. Our locally controlled and democratically accountable education system has been dismantled on the basis of a corrupt foundation.

And now lets cut to the real scandal. Probably the greatest of them all. One of the Priory academies - Withern - has the second worst exam performance in the county.

I find the anti-academy case more than proven, your honour.
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Comments

Theo Smakass's picture
Sat, 28/04/2012 - 19:08

Well put Sarah, the lack of accountability coupled with large sums of money was always going to end in tears. These people have lied to us from the beginning stating that they were not under investigation when that was clearly not the case. If the outcome of the investigation shows a need for criminal prosecutions then an example should be made of those involved. To brush this under the carpet would set a truly awful example to the children being educated by these people that greed is good and money is all that matters.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 07:32

Theo - I'm pleased to find that the DfE has referred the matter to the police:

http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00208467/media-statemen...

Margaret Brand's picture
Sat, 28/04/2012 - 21:02

I was talking to someone about this today. I hadn't realised the extent to which Gililands whole family was involved. I find the possible Jim Speechley connection just fascinating, worrying, confusing . . . . . I need to think about that one!

Alan Watkins-Groves's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 08:34

I find the Speechley connection unlikely. When I was fighting the academies before they were formed I advanced the argument that there would be no proper oversight by the council and business people running other academies were suspected of making illegal profits from them. Mr Jones, head of CLCC at the time, pointed to Speechley as a corrupt local politician to illustrate his contention that council scrutiny might be no better than business scrutiny. Christine Talbot was asked by the NUT DivSec at my request whether it was true that the Priory had bought the French study centre. and she apparently replied that it was and she'd been there. Perhaps a more interesting connection to pursue.

Gary Rudd's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 10:15

I think if you look back you will find that Talbot was a supporter of Speechley and voted for him to retain his position as Council leader. She was a close associate of the late Charles Ireland who was an ardent follower of Jim Speechley.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 08:40

The Trust has issued a response to the DfE report. As Sarah points out, this Federation was established under the Labour Government and the Trust admits that the DfE (or DCSF as it was then) exerted “enormous pressure” to ensure the project worked and expected Mr Gilliland as CEO to “export the brand”. The Federation was clearly intended to be a flagship and money was spent on the academies which could have been shared more equitably with other Lincolnshire schools. The Trust now acknowledges that “observers” had made allegations of unfairness.

It’s clear from the Trust’s response that Mr Gilliland’s “charismatic and forceful leadership style” did not make him “universally popular” and he had created friction in the Lincoln area.

The Trust admits that the former Financial Director, Steve Davies, was not qualified or suitably experienced. This is an astonishing admission of incompetence. The DfE had recommended “earlier” that Mr Davies should be replaced with a more competent person. The Department doesn’t give the exact date of this “earlier” recommendation but Mr Davies, who is cited in the DfE report for using the Federation credit card inappropriately including paying for his own leaving present (Deluxe Metal Sextant at a cost of £505.90), eventually left in December 2011 (although his contract ran until 31 March 2012 because of accrued holidays). His severance package included “a compromise payment of one year’s salary (around £84,000) with the Federation.”

http://prioryacademy.web7.devwebsite.co.uk/_files/A83F39427022C756088E79...

http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/d/priory%20federation%20o...

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 08:47

This short new item (2 mins) features the controversy surrounding the amount of money directed at the Priory Academies.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-15401553

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 20:01

!!!!!!!!!!!! blimey !!!!!!!!!!
Where did this money come from?
Where does Mossbourne get its money?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 09:42

Christine Talbot, a trustee of the Priory Federation told the BBC that she didn’t “have an oversight of many of the decisions that were made.” It is Trustees’ responsibility to have “oversight” – that’s their role. Any Trustee who did not exercise this responsibility should resign.

Ms Talbot is also a Conservative councillor for Lincolnshire County Council. This is the Council which recommended that all Lincolnshire schools become academies. But Councillor Talbot told the BBC, “The governance arrangements for all academies need tightening up and this highlights the need for local accountability.”

Perhaps Councillor Talbot should stress the need for local accountability to her fellow County Councillors.

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-17820534

Alan Watkins-Groves's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 12:19

I wrote many letters to the Press about the huge sums of money involved, I pointed out that £25,000,000 would be sufficient to build new schools, what was the rest going to be spent on? I organised meetings at school and the Drill Hall but no-one came. I published Gilliland's ridiculous list of clothing and jewellery that was unacceptable for lady teachers (including a ban on thumb rings). In the end I, along with many others, took generous payments to disappear after signing gagging agreements. Many of us predicted this, the man was not an unknown quantity.

Adam's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 12:22

"In the end I, along with many others, took generous payments to disappear after signing gagging agreements."

Are you going to pay them back?

Alan Watkins-Groves's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 12:22

When the next set of results come out, without the benefit of the excessive 'GCSEs' awarded for hairdressing et al, the Fed will be shown up for what it really is - a Grammar School flagship and a three Secondary Moderns. In one of my letters to the Press I pointed out that Gilliland's plan was to return Lincoln's education system back to before the 60s.

sarah dodds's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 12:54

Alan - I would love to speak with you about your background knowledge on all this - which is clearly far greater than my own. Can you please contact me - LSN have my contact details
Thanks

Alan Watkins-Groves's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 13:02

@Adam- the actual wording says that I may not do or say anything that may harm the Priory's business. Everything here was said before the agreement. So, no, I won't be handing the money back. I consider it fair payment for the treatment I received and I don't think I could damage the business more than has been done already.

Adam's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 13:13

Before condemning you, I'm asking myself whether I would abandon my principles for a "generous payment". It all seems to ride on the amount.

Alan Watkins-Groves's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 13:26

Who the hell are you to condemn me? The sheer arrogance leaves me speechless.

Adam's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 13:39

I didn't condemn you. I said I might have done the same thing for the right price. That doesn't stop it from being a sordid exchange.

Sheila's picture
Sat, 05/05/2012 - 19:46

Temper temper!!

Sheila's picture
Thu, 03/05/2012 - 21:51

You don't seem to know what you said!

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 13:48

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, commented (28 Nov 2011) on the purchase of the centre in France by the Priory Trust and said ‘…we have to ensure that there is value for money for every pound of taxpayers’ money spent [on schools]. When these stories reach us, you began thinking, "Crumbs, this is the beginning of things going badly wrong," in terms of our getting value for money for the taxpayer.’

Earlier, Margaret Hodge had said, “In the Priory Federation of Academies Trust… salary and benefits for the so-called executive head teacher [Mr Gilliland] were over £200,000, with additional pension contributions of another £28,500. The top three members of staff collectively earned £500,000. The top four earned £600,000, which means that four people in this trust - this is the Priory academy LSST, a thriving, prosperous school- earned over £100,000. In 2008, it bought a property in France for around £500,000. It has since spent £1.4 million on it. The year 2010 shows that the federation paid four trustees more than £31,000 in travel and subsistence. When asked, the federation said that a lot of this went on travelling to and from the French centre. Again, this is a shocking example. I hope you are as shocked as I was. What it demonstrates is that if you do not have a proper system of accountability in place when you are increasingly having fragmentation of institutions, more of this will happen unless you guys [the YPLA, now EFA] can step in and intervene.”

Perhaps it was this exchange that prompted the YPLA to investigate the finances of the Trust.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubacc/uc16...

Andrew Austin's picture
Sun, 29/04/2012 - 13:57

I for one would love to hear about the events that Alan has brought to our attention, not to condemn him (who are any of us to do that) but to better understand the workings and failings of a company that at first glance has placed profit before education and has soiled the integrity of many well meaning educators, many of which will doubtless be tarred with the same brush purely for working in the academies in question. I for one salute Alan's honesty in coming forward.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 11:46

I've yet to see any evidence that 'academy status' was a salient issue here.

The irregularities listed in the report concerning the Priory are mostly small-scale alleged abuses of the school's credit card - something that could happen in any school that has a credit card.

Evidently, these irregularities (and others) were spotted in the end and action has been taken. I haven't seen any proof that LA auditors would have been any quicker off the mark.

Certainly the scale of alleged wrongdoing here is tiny compared with the sums allegedly involved in a well-reported case of a local authority supervised school in North West London, where some newspapers have reported more than £1m to have gone south.

Since criminal charges have been brought in that case (and may be in the Priory one) we should all be careful not to say anything prejudicial. My point is merely that the authorities and the courts may well find themselves from time to time dealing with alleged frauds in LA as well as academy schools, and the status of the school and whether its accounts are LA-inspected or EFA-inspected isn't really an important consideration.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 12:29

Ricky have you watched this video?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-15401553

Do you have any insight at all into how state schools like this and Mossbourne can exist in the kind of extreme luxury we would expect for our most highly funded private schools while most of us struggle on in hugely overcrowded and dysfunctional buildings, and none of the slack in resources which would allow us to sort out essential issues which are hampering student progress?

"The irregularities" here - whereby some students get incredible resources while others are failed by lack of funding - are absolutely vast. Because the finance involved is state finance we are entitled to an explanation as to how and why these irregularities are occurring and we aren't getting any.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 12:45

Ricky - again you have made my day! It's hilarious that you consider the irregularities to be small-time stuff which could happen to any school that has a credit card. It's also obvious you haven't read the report or you would know that the irregularities weren't just using the Federation's credit card for a few personal items. Under this logic, the MPs expenses scandal is equally "small-scale".

Ricky - the abuse isn't "alleged", it's been discovered by the Education Funding Agency (EFA). You would also know (if you'd read and understood the posts above) that the DfE has asked the police to investigate the Priory case.

You are correct that fraud can take place in LA maintained school. However, local authorities have to send annual statements to the DfE which have to include confirmation of the assurance provided by the LA’s audit system for schools. And while it's true that academies are supposed to have their accounts audited, these accounts do not have to be submitted to the Charity Commission. They are available from Companies House on payment of a fee. Academies are supposed to provide copies of academies on request (subject to a copying fee) but in the case of the Priory Federation this doesn't seem to have happened.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/marketingpr_activities_57

Even one of the Trustees of the Priory Federation has said there needs to be more local accountability of academies and chains. This is ironic considering the Trustee is a Tory Councillor at Lincolnshire County Council which announced some months ago that all Lincolnshire schools should become academies.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:15

Rebecca


You know full well that the huge sums given to this academy federation were given to them by the last Labour government and that the outrageously extravagant capital projects were provided under BSF - which Gove wisely scrapped.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:24

Janet

I have read the report. And it is small scale compared to the £1.6m irregularities alleged at the other school.

Ricky – the abuse isn’t “alleged”, it’s been discovered by the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

Yes, I know. But since criminal charges are contemplated, blogs and sites like this are supposed to follow the same conventions as newspapers....... being careful not to say anything that would prejudice a fair trial and generally observing the "innocent until proven guilty" assumption.

As for the Tory Councillor - sadly, Tories active in local government frequently go native and become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Since Lincolnshire isn't exactly a byword for honesty and integrity in local government (....and one Lincolnshire Tory in particular!), I find it odd that anyone should think that having accounts audited by that shower would be preferable to having them done by Buzzacots or PwC.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:27

The cancellation of BSF left a lot of maintained schools in decrepit buildings, unfit for purpose, unsafe and unhealthy. There is widespread acknowledgement that the implementation of BSF was problematic, but at least the initiative's aim was to improve all schools in the country, not just a select few, which is what is happening now.

I don't think that Michael Gove was "wise" in scrapping BSF and the manner in which he did it was unlawful. Justice Holman allowed challenges by 6 councils, declaring Gove had unlawfully failed to consult them before imposing the cuts. In five of the cases the failure was ‘so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power’, said the judge. Its another example of how Gove and this government hold in contempt the public's right to proper consultation.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:31

Could you link to the details Ricky? I'm unaware of any of them.

Could you also give me some indication of why you think Gove is wise? Many schools are struggling with entirely unsuitable and in some cases dangerous accommodation which makes it extremely difficult for them to teach effectively. While anybody would have supported improved management of the schools rebuilding program and few would have objected to a brief suspension pending re-evaluation I've never come across anyone who thinks it was a remotely sensible idea just to scrap it.

Perhaps you have no idea of the decades schools have spent trying to find routes through which they could get urgent rebuilds and the consequences of their suddenly having no way forward?

Personally I compare school planning here with that just a few miles away in Scotland and the rapidly increasing ignorance of already deeply flawed policy here makes me cry.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:34

"blogs and sites like this are supposed to follow the same conventions as newspapers"

Since when? Links please. I continue to get blatant lies written about me relentlessly on the internet and I'd be delighted to know what legal protection I have.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:35

Ricky - you are correct about the huge amount of money diverted to Labour's prestigious academy programme at the expense of other schools. It wasn't just in Licolnshire that flagship schools were established. Sponsored academies were under incredible pressure to perform. This pressure contributed to the high rate of attrition among heads of early academies (see PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2008).

http://www.employers-guide.org/media/21007/academies_annual_report_pwc.pdf

The response of the Priory Federation to the EFA report admits that the Federation was under intense pressure to succeed and "export the brand".

Deception about academies has been going on since they were first established (see thread below).

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/03/deception-about-academies-...

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:41

Ricky - the evidence is in the public domain. It was splashed over newspapers at the weekend. I think the discussion here has been restrained compared with some of the tabloids (have you read the Mail's account?).

Please could you link to information about the other school. First you say the fraud was £1 million and then it's £1.6.

And could you be more explicit about "Tories in local government frequently go native". I haven't a clue what you mean.

andy's picture
Sat, 05/05/2012 - 16:17

Ricky: I tend to agree the spirit of your comment though not necessariily the choice of descriptor (i.e. wisely). That is to say, whichever party won the last election was picking an incredible financial mess and whatever decisions they settled on would have caused a hue and cry. In relation to the scrapping of the BSF programme I reckon that just about everyone saw that coming and thus while it was hugely disappointing, as a big ticket item, it was no real surprise. What was surprising was the way the government went about it, which ended up with a legal judgement against them - not for doing it but the way they did it.

The real tragedy is that there was and remains a desparate need for rebuild and major refurbishment of existing school stock. Scotland seems to have undertaken this is a more coherent way that England did. How and why this came to pass is another interesting but entirely separate debate. The terms of the BSF programme with it underlying PFI contracts remains a major issue for labour to address (and likewise with the hospital programme). So in terms of financial probity perhaps the Blair/Brown regime had more serious issues to be held to account for than the petty criminal activities of an Academy Trust whose financial accounting system was demonstrably farcical and shoudl lead to criminal proceedings.

The impenetrable question is that of how to sensibly and responsibily fund major building projects - whether inside and outside a scenario of financial austerity? Perhaps there should be further scrutiny of the decisions to give an extra £18billion to the IMF through 2 separate tranches and the approval of £32 billion for HS2. Based on all previous governmental projects which reflect a tripling and more of the original estimate, the HS2 could come at £90-100billion and the profit takers will not be taxpayer but the rail companies. Cancelling these monies would massively reduce our borrowing and enable a refocusing on infrastructure - not the least of these being schools.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:49

Janet

It doesn't matter whether it's in the public domain.That isn't the point. In one of the cases I've mentioned, charges have been brought, In the other, charges are reportedly contemplated. So the Contempt of Court Act 1981 applies. And to web forums too.

http://tinyurl.com/csjb6z8


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:56

Doing a quick search of the internet Janet I wonder if perhaps Ricky is referring to these news reports about Paul Gorman at St. Boniface College Janet?
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/13/teachers-face-redundancy-form...

I think perhaps Ricky is making a substantial leap from a school having a £1m deficit and a former bursar being charged with financial irregularities to suggesting that the former bursar is being charged with £1m of irregularities...... and then suddenly £1.6m of irregularities!!! But please do provide a link if there is actually a case where somebody is accuse of £1.6m of irregularities. I promise you it's perfectly fine to link to newspaper articles in online discussion.

How on earth could £1.6m be creamed off an ordinary school budget without stopping staff pay for quite a while! What world do you live in?

Ricky if schools rapidly lose students these huge deficits happen very quickly and the consequences are always horrific which is why LAs are needed to help. That's why everyone is so worried about predatory free schools opening in areas where there already plenty of school spaced.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 13:46

Rebecca, here's some free legal advice from the Queen's solicitor:

http://tinyurl.com/csjb6z8

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 14:07

Thanks for that Ricky but the kind of guff which is written about me would evaporate the minute it got near a court of law. The main problem I have is that under this government's new laws it is more and more likely that an employer will simply fire me if they are sent substantial lies about me because it is hard for them to be sure there is no truth in them at all. I have no recourse to appeal or right to challenge their decision in order to explore what is actually going on - so I can't find out where the allegations are coming from or what they are.

Hence my right to free speech depends on my ability to be able to afford to lose my income. It's a big price to pay when you are a parent and you see what your children miss out on because you choose to write about what's going on.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 14:08

I wonder if perhaps Ricky is referring to these news reports about Paul Gorman at St. Boniface College Janet?

Is Plymouth in "North West London", Rebecca?
No.
Keep up....

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 14:13

Cheers Ricky - I've just found your Kilburn Times link with the amusing adverts!
Here's a Guardian link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/mar/01/head-arrested-in-fraud-case
I'm afraid I can't keep up right now as I've got to go to Wilkos with my daughter before the after schools drama club run. Back later. :-)

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 15:21

Ricky - you raise an important point about discussing cases which are subject to criminal investigation. It is quite right and proper that no discussion about possible evidence, speculation and so on should take place while investigation is ongoing and before a trial. Once a trial begins, however, it is quite acceptable for the media and others to discuss the evidence that is presented to Court.

In the case of the Priory Federation the evidence (not speculation) has been presented by the Education Funding Agency. The DfE has referred the findings to the police. The official findings of the EFA are in the public domain. Discussion about this evidence is, therefore, allowable.

In the case of the school to which you refer, Copland Community School, the fact that some staff have been arrested is a fact which can be reported. What could not be reported is any speculation or discussion which could prevent a fair trial. However, what can be reported is what action was taken by the Council when the allegations first surfaced because this is a matter of record.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 15:31

Janet,

Quite so. Which is why I am discussing both these cases, but taking care to use qualifiers such as 'alleged' when it comes to specific accusations of wrongdoing levelled against named individuals who may one day face trial.

Now, returning to the point:

Since it is demonstrably the case that scandals arise in both local authority and academy schools, and it is demonstrably the case that in these cases concerns were investigated once raised, why are you implying that the Priory case serves as some special warning of the dangers of academization?

There will be villains and fools in whatever school system we have in this country. Obviously there is a need for robust systems of accountability.

So far, the evidence shows the systems in place work.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 16:04

Ricky - our replies crossed - see my post re Priory Federation (Lincolnshire) and Copland School (Brent).

In both cases there have been concerns made about light touch regulation. The Audit Commission report into Brent found this to be inadequate. And the Tory Councillor in Lincolnshire has said there should be more local accountability.

Both these cases show that the systems in place at the time did NOT work well. It took a whistle-blower to expose the irregularities at Copland. Allegations about the Priory Federation were made on the "Politics Show Yorkshire and Lincolnshire" (this programme was referred to in the Public Accounts Committee November 2011). I do not know the date of this TV programme and I do not know what action was taken either by the Trustees or by the Principal Regulator (the Secretary of State) after the programme was aired.

Although I mention Lincolnshire County Council's handling of the case in my other post - it was, in fact, nothing to do with Lincolnshire County Council because the Federation was a group of academies. The Trustees were initally responsible for investigating these claims. If this were insufficient then it was the responsibility of the Principal Regulator to ask the Charity Commission to investigate. As it was, the Education Funding Agency undertook the investigation. I'm not sure whether this was the correct course of action although it has to be said that the EFA was thorough.

It would be interesting to read any Audit Commission report into the handling of the Priory Case by the Priory Federation Trustees and the Principal Regulator.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 15:38

Ricky - you compare the Priory Federation irregularities with a larger irregularity at a school maintained by a local authority. You imply that the actions of the Priory CEO were of small account when compared with the larger amount of money involved in the latter case. However, they are both crimes: theft is theft, fraud is fraud. It is up to the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute cases and it is up to the Court to decide on the punishment. This would, no doubt, reflect the sum of money involved.

It is too early to comment on Lincolnshire County Council's handling of the Priory Federation Case - allegations about wrong-doing had been made before they were brought up at the Public Accounts Committee in November 2011. However, an investigation has taken place into Brent Council's handling of the Copland affair.

An Audit Commission report into Brent Council's actions re Copland Community School concluded that the Council acted promptly when the alleged financial irregularities were brought to its attention. However, the report found weaknesses in Brent's oversight of the school's finances. The light touch surveillance was in accordance with Government guidelines at the time for "successful" schools but was found to be inadequate.

http://democracy.brent.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=3235

The then Education Secretary sacked the Governing Body of the school while Brent was investigating the claims.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jun/23/school-governors-sacked-...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 15:52

Janet

Yes, no one disputes any of that.

For the third time, I return to the burden of my original comment -

If the fact that irregularities took place at the Priory is used (as it has been here) as a warning of the dangers of academization.......

then, surely, the fact that much larger irregularities were found at Copland could be seen as an even more dramatic warning of the dangers of having LAs in charge.

Or, we could be more grown up about it all and acknowledge that in neither case was the fact that it was an academy or an LA school a significant factor.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 16:05

Why do you not think it is wise for there to be systems for the public scrutiny of public money Ricky?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 16:09

In both cases the light touch regulation has been found wanting. Academies are given more autonomy than other schools. If this autonomy is not adequately supervised then there is more opportunity for lax management, even criminal wrongdoing. In the case of any local authority school, including Trust schools, the local authority can intervene - indeed, it has a duty to intervene.

In the case of academies, the local authority has no power to intervene. So, yes, the Priory affair is a warning about the lack of accountability around academies.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 17:37

Janet

But the system wasn't found wanting. The alarm was sounded. The government acted. The matter was investigated. Unless you want to infantilize the whole profession and not allow headteachers to have any spending money of their own, you have to risk the occasional abuse..... but be prepared to act promptly when concerns are raised.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 17:57

That sounds like a decent point. What prompted the DFE investigation? Was it prompted by the systems put in place to monitor academies? It sounds like there are people who've contributed to this thread who would know...

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 17:42

.... also Janet, you haven't really explained why you put so much faith in the competence or integrity of LAs.

In many parts of the country local government is infamously incompetent or corrupt, in some parts both.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 30/04/2012 - 17:52

Do local government accounts not have to be audited? Up here local budgets are subject to extensive scrutiny.

I think the point it, Ricky, that these things are hard to scrutinise and monitor and there need to be robust systems to ensure they are monitored and that there are people in place who are not only accountable but are empowered with the access, support and systems they need to ensure they are effectively accountable. The existing systems are not perfect to it is essential we plan to ensure any new systems are better, not worse.

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