It’s not often there’s a link between the Schools Adjudicator, the little people and a near naked woman. It’s even more surprising when the link happens to be a high-profile academy chain.
The connection is Durand Academy Trust (DAT).
The Schools Adjudicator has censured DAT for its admissions criteria
. The Adjudicator said prioritising children who attended Durand’s nursery school was unfair: children who weren’t in the nursery had a low chance of being admitted to Durand’s reception class.
What about the pixies? They appeared during a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) session
about Durand Academy’s financial statements. Questions bounced back and forth. How much did Durand’s head, Sir Greg Martin, earn? What part did the private company London Horizons play? Why did Sir Greg set up London Horizons? Was it to avoid Corporation Tax? Was there a conflict of interest between Sir Greg’s role as Durand’s head and his role as director of the private company GMG Educational Support? Had land been transferred from DAT to DET (Durand Educational Trust)?
PAC member Stephen Phillips showed his exasperation:
‘The school transferred, without consideration and without receiving any money, its assets to another trust, set up for reasons that continue to escape me, of which you and all the other little Durand pixies were also directors.’
To clarify, if clarification is possible, DAT, an exempt* charity, transferred DAT assets to DET, a non-exempt* charity set up in May 2010 by Greg Martin (before he was knighted for services to education) and others (Stephen Phillips’ ‘pixies’). DET had inadvertently been removed from the Charity Commission’s list in August 2011. DET has now been re-registered: its accounts for the last three year were sent to the Commission on 12 January 2015. The 2010/11 director’s report showed DET had an income of nearly £17m because it had received ‘donations of £16,972,000, which included a property valued at an estimated market value of £15,000,000.’
Were these assets public or private? PAC wanted to know. And why were they transferred to DET? Was it to move the assets out of reach of the Secretary of State? asked the Chief Auditor.
Yes, replied Sir Greg.
But enough of legalities, where does Saffron come in? The lady with little clothing is on the Twitter account of The London Coterie, the members-only club set up by Sir Greg in September 2014. Margaret Hodge, PAC Chair, was not impressed:
‘You take yourself a generous slug of money, which we believe to be public money. You then find time — with your school having been seen as excellent but now only being rated as good by Ofsted — to set up a dating agency. When I looked, somebody called Saffron, who works on the Twitter account, was semi-nude with all sorts of black underwear all over the place. It seems deeply inappropriate for a head teacher to do that on premises where you are also conducting educational business.’
Sir Greg said it was a private enterprise and, in any case, he was no longer a director. Company House records show his directorship was terminated on 26 January, the same day as the PAC hearing. Saffron, the lady with skimpy undies, is a director of the The Coterie London and Companyfour, a private limited company set up by Sir Greg and others in January 2014 and originally registered at the London Horizons address, c/o Durand School. Sir Greg ceased to be a director of Companyfour on 2 February 2015. Saffron is also a Company Secretary at Sir Greg’s company GMG Educational Support.
Saffron seemed delighted by the publicity: ‘Even in Parliament they are talking about us,’ she tweeted
. This prompted UK Education Matters to tweet
‘The #PAC session with Durand looks good value. @SchoolsWeek tweets suggest Greg Martin and @margarethodge aren’t likely to date’.
*An exempt charity is one which does not have to register with the Charity Commission. Academies and free schools are exempt charities. The Secretary of State is the Principal Regulator for these. A non-exempt charity has to register with the Charity Commission. DET thought it was exempt because it was connected to DAT. But it wasn't exempt and DET shouldn't have been de-registered.
NOTE: The original headline was What links school admissions, pixies and a semi-nude?