Perry Beeches expected to lose academies but questions about oversight, transparency and responsibility remain

Janet Downs's picture

It is expected all Perry Beeches’ academies will be transferred to another multi-academy trust (MAT) writes The Guardian.  The West Midlands Academies Trust is the most likely MAT to take over the academies which were being ‘rebrokered’ – the process whereby academies are transferred from one academy trust to another.   The costs of such transfers can be between £0 and nearly half-a-million per academy as a Local Schools Network investigation revealed.

Perry Beeches’ PR agency gave the Guardian a comment from Liam Nolan, Perry Beeches’ head and Accounting Officer, that rebrokering would be done by ‘the directors of the academy trust’.   It’s unclear which academy trust he is referring to, Perry Beeches or West Midlands.  Nolan said he wouldn’t be involved because he was ‘an employee’.  But he is not just an ‘employee’ of Perry Beeches: he is a trust director.  He has announced his intention of stepping down but has not done so yet.  He cannot duck responsibility for the actions of Perry Beeches Academies Trust by claiming he’s just a ‘head’ or an ‘employee’.

The Guardian cited a ‘Whitehall source’ who said action taken by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) at Perry Beeches ‘shows the academy system is working, with the EFA identifying issues and regional schools commissioners intervening and rebrokering effectively, as part of a robust system of oversight.’  This is nonsense.  It was not the EFA who identified issues at Perry Beeches but a whistleblower.  

It’s not, of course, the first time the alleged ‘robust system of oversight’ has failed and where action was taken only after allegations were received by the EFA: Cuckoo Hall, Barnfield, Sawtry, Durand, Bilingual Primary School Brighton, Kings Science Academy.   

A critical National Audit Office report into Durand said EFA oversight of related-party transactions was ‘initially desk-based and light-touch’.  The EFA had tightened up its rules by requiring purchases from related parties to be ‘at cost’ and declared in annual accounts but the NAO noted this didn't satisfy the the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).   PAC remained  concerned that related party transactions were ‘always open to accusations of conflicts of interest, even when on a ‘no profit basis’.  Margaret Hodge, the then PAC chair, wanted them banned.  The NAO also remained concerned: ‘The measurement of ‘cost’ or ‘no profit’ is subjective and will be difficult to evidence and audit.’

Far from being robust, the EFA oversight appears to rely too much on whistleblowers.  The ‘no cost’ requirement for related-party transactions is insufficient to prevent fraud.    Neither does the oversight consider whether academy trusts spend their money wisely.   It will make no judgement about whether thousands of pounds spent on a desk for the principal, on hospitality or on marketing/PR is a good use of taxpayers’ money. 

The Government wants all schools in England to become academies.  But serious questions remain about how the EFA can effectively monitor the annual accounts of academy trusts.  Parents and taxpayers are right to be concerned about what the Economist calls the ‘Starbucksification’ of England’s schools.



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Trevor Fisher's picture
Thu, 31/03/2016 - 11:30

to the list of failing financial academy operations can be added Birmingham's Baverstock academy last November, but this is not a rational debate on any of the issues. It is a political operation impervious to evidence and I would reccomend Geoff Barton's article in the TES of 16th March. As he says, no indication of a white paper came out to the ASCL when Morgan addressed her, and this was announced by the Chancellor not the part time Secretary of State.

THe scale of opposition is massive. But the political leadership of the Tory party is operating on.... a political agenda. Nothing to do with evidence on any of the moves. Note the salami tactics on governors. The Reclaiming Educaton conference in November highlighted the Education and Adoption bill and the removal of local governors. A campaign was promised, but never materialised. Now the parent governors are to be removed.

In the stalin era peasants tried to get to Moscow to warn about forced collectivisation. The current political regime is taking a similar path, and we cannot continue to speak truth to power. The belief anyone is listening is as outdated as the views of the Russian peasants.

Trevor Fisher.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 02/04/2016 - 15:07

I carried out some detailed research on Perry Beeches when, as a Birmingham LA school, it made its first claim to be, 'The most improved school -ever'. You can read my 'Forum' paper here.

'School Improvement' is a very slippery concept. In this article I argue that, within the educational marketisation paradigm of the present government, it is actually a barrier to social mobility.

Trevor is absolutely right about he Stalinist nature of Conservative control of the education system. See


David Barry's picture
Mon, 04/04/2016 - 18:39

Worth pointing out that, so far as I can see nothing Mr Nolan did was illegal, nor would the auditors have picked it up. hence the need for a whistleblower.


Had the schools been Community Schools elected parent governors would have noticed the nepotism and been able to do something about it.

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