Federation under investigation for its finances takes over running of school which isn’t yet an academy.

Janet Downs's picture
The Department for Education (DfE) has begun an inquiry into the finances of Barnfield Federation and how the chain “manages its learners”.  But despite this on-going investigation, the DfE is still allowing Barnfield Education Partnership (BEPT) which now leads the Federation to sponsor Sandy Upper School from April 2014. 

But according to the school’s website, Sandy Upper School is no more.  It became Barnfield Sandy Academy in September 2013.   This is odd because Sandy Upper School is a Foundation school due to close on 31 March 2014 according to the DfE’s database, Edubase.

Edubase says Barnfield Sandy Academy doesn’t exist.   But there’s a website which says the school has just finished its first term as an academy. 

A local paper said Barnfield Federation took over the running of Sandy Upper School in September.  But this was before the school formally became an academy - the conversion was put on hold because of the DfE investigation.  Ofsted criticised the delay:

  “The school is running very effectively as an academy in all but name. However, the lack of agreement between the local authority and the sponsors on the final financial settlement is depriving the school of access to much needed redevelopment funds.”

This raises several questions:

1         Why was the Federation allowed to take over complete running of the school before it had become an academy?

2         Which organisation is actually responsible for the school while it’s in limbo: the local authority or Barnfield?

3         Is it within Ofsted’s remit to comment on the speed of a school’s conversion?

4         What are these “much needed redevelopment funds”?  Where will they come from?  Why is Sandy Upper School being deprived of them if they are so urgently needed?

5         Should an organisation under investigation by the DfE be allowed to take on schools while it is under investigation?

The Education Select Committee is inquiring into certain aspects of academies and free schools.  Perhaps it should add these questions to its list.
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