Grindon Hall Christian School, a former private school which taught creationism as science
, has been issued with a Financial Notice to Improve
by the Education Funding Agency (EFA).
The all-through school, described on Wikipedia
as an ‘independent Non Paying Fee School’, failed to balance its budget and required financial support from the EFA.
The EFA said the school’s ‘financial health’ had gone downhill since becoming a free school and its delegated financial responsibilities will be revoked. Transactions of the Trust which runs the school must go to the EFA for approval.
The size of the school doubled when it joined the state sector and money was provided for new accommodation. Grindon Hall’s annual report for year ending 31 August 2013* admitted external auditors had found ‘weaknesses’ in control of spending.
Auditing revealed £38,371 of the school’s general annual grant (GAG) was used to settle debts of the previous independent school. The auditor accepted this was intended as a ‘temporary arrangement’ but considered the GAG had not ‘been applied for the purposes intended by Parliament’ during the period of the loan. The money was lent to North Eastern Christian Schools Limited, a private limited company which changed its name to Chantry House Associates Limited on 7 October 2014. Chantry House Associates has one director: Christopher John Gray, the head of Grindon Hall Christian School. The related party transaction was shown in the school’s annual report subject to the auditor’s caveat.
Grindon Hall uses the Core Curriculum UK
for its primary pupils. This curriculum is much-praised by Government ministers. Ofsted
judged Grindon Hall to Require Improvement in March 2014 and said that while the curriculum provided ‘many opportunities for pupils to develop their literacy and numeracy skills’, the ‘practice and repetition of questions’ should be balanced with ‘more challenging learning tasks, especially for the most able’. Ofsted also found some ‘underperformance’ in the Phonics Screening Test and in pupils’ progress in writing and maths between Key Stages 1 to 2.
It would be unfair to judge the Core Curriculum UK on the strength of one school’s Ofsted report. But the curriculum is marketed
as having been ‘highly successful’ in the USA and has ministerial approval.
That said, Ofsted monitoring in September 2014 showed Grindon Hall was taking effective action to address the problems relating to teaching identified in the full inspection. However, inspectors did not comment on the EFA intervention which must have been going on at the time.
Grindon Hall joins other free schools where the trusts running them have been criticised for the handling of their finances. These include King’s Science Academy
, Barnfield Federation
, Brighton and Hove Bilingual School
and Durham Free School
12 January 2015 17.23. Private Eye
9 January edition features Durham Free Schools (DFS) which, as stated above, has, like Grindon Hall Christian School, been served with a Financial Notice to Improve. It reminds readers that Durham education chiefs said DFS wouldn't be viable because Durham had a shortage of pupils. They were overruled. Local MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods has discovered the cost of funding DFS, which has just 90 pupils, is five times more than the average per-pupil cost at a state school.
*I can't provide a direct link. However, a internet search should find it.