How the mighty fall
So another of Gove's heros has fallen. Sir Greg Martin, one time head of the Durand Academy, fawned over by politicians on both sides of the political divide, and a man at the centre of a complex web of edu- companies and financial transactions, has been forced to sever all links to the school whose funding agreement has simultaneously been terminated by the DFE.
And not before time. There is barely room here for a detailed narrative of how one man managed to profit so extensively from the academy programme. The network of companies and charities, at which he has been at the centre for the past six years, is still proving extemely difficult to disentangle.
A National Audit Office report in November 2014 raised concerns about the Education Funding Agency’s weak oversight of conflicts of interest and financial transactions between the Durand Academy Trust, several other companies in which governors and trustees were involved and a separate charity, the Durand Education Trust, which owns the all the school’s land and buildings (including a boarding school) as well as a health club, swimming pool and residential property on the London site .
The Public Accounts Committee subsequently heard that Sir Greg Martin had also registered a dating agency at the school’s address and received management fees in excess of £160,000 a year from one of the private companies which ran the leisure centre. This was in addition to his annual head’s pay and pension package of £229,138, making him one of the highest paid executive heads in the country.
Having been trawled over by both these bodies the Durand situation was referred by the Department of Education to the Charity Commission, whose investigation has been going on for over a year and still appears unable to unpick the mess.
I have been following the school's fortunes since the Coalition came to power, latterly focussing in particular on a boarding school annex that Durand has set up deep in the Sussex countryside - another of M Gove's pet projects. You can see these two Guardian pieces here and here
In a letter to the then PAC chair Margaret Hodge before the last general election, the Department for Education permanent secretary Chris Wormald admitted that neither the Durand Education Trust or the Durand Academy Trust had provided sufficient evidence about how the Sussex site was purchased in the first place.
There must now be a huge question mark over the future of this project at which pupils, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, were enrolled without the certainty that the site could be developed to accomodate them
Maybe we will never understand the Durand empire in full. What we do know though is that the EFA appears to have lost control of how public money was being used in the financial transactions between all the Durand interests.
We also know that Michael Gove's judgement yet again appears to have been deeply flawed. Though this week especially, we probably don't need to be reminded of that.