In December 2013, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) told the Department for Education (DfE) there were 30 academies of “national concern”, the National Audit Office (NAO*) found. The NAO didn’t reveal what these concerns were. Neither did it say whether they were stand-alone academies, in a chain, sponsored, or free schools. All it said was Kings Science Academy, the E-Act chain, and a Foundation school, Quinton Kynaston, had been investigated and the EFA was currently investigating alleged financial irregularities at Al-Madinah free school.
The head of Kings Science Academy has been arrested and bailed
on charges relating to fraud although he is still in post; the Chief Executive of E-Act, Sir Bruce Liddington, resigned after a "culture of extravagant expenses
" were uncovered at the academy chain; and the head of Quinton Kynaston immediately resigned
on publication of the EFA report. The Kings Science Academy report, completed at the same time as Quinton Kynaston’s, was, however, only made public after Newsnight received a leaked copy
When questioned in the Commons about the accountability of academies, and Kings Science Academy in particular, I don’t recall Education Secretary Michael Gove informing the House about these 30 academies. But the NAO found:
“The [Education Funding] Agency reports monthly to the Department on academies at risk due to poor financial management, governance or academic performance.”
It’s unlikely that Gove didn’t know about the 30 academies “at risk". But when asked about academy accountability he said academies faced “greater accountability
” than local authority (LA) schools. That may or may be true – there may be strengths and weaknesses apparent in both LA and EFA monitoring of academies and these may worsen as discussed here
. But he doesn’t appear to have mentioned the 30 academies which the EFA reported as causing “national concern”.
Perhaps an MP could ask Gove to make a statement about why he didn’t share the EFA’s concerns with the House of Commons, whether the EFA is going to investigate the 30 academies and whether they were sponsored, converters or free schools.
We’d all like to know.
*See paragraph 1.25 NAO report
, Performance and Capability of the Education Funding Agency