£1.5m paid on transfer of academy in Greenwich. And it won’t appear in DfE accounts.

Janet Downs's picture

£1.5m was awarded to Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) when it took over Corelli College, a stand-alone converter academy in Greenwich run by Corelli College Co-operative Academy Trust (CCCAT), Private Eye (1 June 2018) reveals.

But this £1.5m won’t appear in the Department for Education’s list of transfer costs.  That’s because Greenwich taxpayers will fund it.

Corelli College, originally Kidbrooke School, converted to academy status in 2011.  Council Minutes from 2011 show Kidbrooke’s land and building would be ‘transferred to the school on a 125-year lease’, Private Eye writes.  There would be safeguards to ensure the land was returned to the local authority (LA) if the academy was ‘discontinued’.

The Minutes also listed ‘matters to be resolved’ concerning whether unused tennis courts, land next to the entrance and a manager’s house would be included in the lease or kept by the LA.

These matters weren’t resolved and a formal lease wasn’t signed.

In 2016/17, Corelli College experienced financial difficulties* blamed in part on falling rolls and competition with free schools in Greenwich.  Fearing further strain, the Trustees informed the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).  The Trust agreed a recovery plan which would lead to Corelli College joining LAT in early 2018.

Before LAT took over Corelli College, however, it ‘promptly asked for £500,000’ from the LA for ‘essential health and safety work’, the Eye says.  This was granted ‘in recognition of the retention of land and premises manager’s house’.  These would ‘definitely be excluded’ from any lease.

A month later, however, a report to Greenwich council’s leader asked for a further £1m to be paid to LAT as ‘in respect of a disputed interest in land’.

The report revealed the academy would have a five-year ‘licence’ for the use of the house and land, valued at £1m, but they would not be included in the lease. 

In March, Conservative councillor Spencer Drury raised the matter with council leader Denise Hyland.  Cllr Drury said ‘over half of the council tax increase’ would go to LAT.  He wanted to know how that happened.  He’d read the reports and ‘they are opaque at best’. 

The leader responded by saying all the council had done was ‘purchase two pieces of land from Corelli’.  The cash was needed ‘desperately to make that building fit for purpose’.

But the council owned the land.  How could it purchase land which it owned?

Hyland clarified:

The school have claimed they had legal rights to that land in question, and quite legitimately, we have offered a million pounds in settlement where we own those pieces of land.’

It appears that failing to sort out a lease in 2011 has now resulted in an academy trust claiming ‘legal rights’ to the land.  This oversight is now costing Greenwich local taxpayers £1m. 

Cllr Christine Grice, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources who’s also a CCCAT director, objected to the council scrutinising the deal.  She didn’t think it was ‘appropriate’ to continue the debate.

Corelli was closed on 28 February 2018 for a ‘fresh start’, Schools Performance Tables show.  Its successor, The Halley Academy, boasts  about its ‘expansive premises…spread out generously over the estate’.  Its listed status is ‘testimony’ to the buildings’ ‘character and practicality’.  

Odd, then, that just a few months ago, the council leader said money was essential because the building wasn’t fit for purpose.

This case once again raises questions about money changing hands when academies are transferred.  This time, however, it’s not the Department for Education which is responsible.  It’s a council.  And it could act as a precedent if academy trusts find similar loopholes in leases and demand compensation from land owners (usually hard-pressed councils).

This incident, Private Eye concludes, rather undermines Government claims the academies programme does not allow school land to be ‘given away on an enormous scale’.


*Accounts for Corelli College Co-operative Academy Trust available from Companies House

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John Bajina's picture
Sun, 03/06/2018 - 14:57

Why is this drive to Privatisation costing us so much?
Or is this another promise of Jam Tomorrow?
I am getting concerned

Neil Appleby's picture
Tue, 05/06/2018 - 19:49

You're getting concerned! The education system in the UK is in a terminal state. I left headship in the UK to become Head at the secondary school in the Falkland Islands, no academisation, no Ofsted, no insane secretary of states for education and more importantly real autonomy, interestingly our school funding is not based on pupils on roll but on the squid catch and I can watch dolphins and sealions from my office window and penguins are 5 minutes away. I feel so sorry for my colleague Heads in the UK who are still putting up with the destruction wholesale of comprehensive, locally accountable education.

John Bajina's picture
Wed, 06/06/2018 - 15:11

Would you like quite an experienced Governor? :-)

Neil Appleby's picture
Wed, 06/06/2018 - 19:15

Interestingly they don't have Governors down here either

John Bajina's picture
Thu, 07/06/2018 - 16:42

Are you comfortable with critiacal and friendly cover?
Just out of interest, how many in your school, not counting outside wild life?

Neil Appleby's picture
Fri, 08/06/2018 - 13:00

Hi John
Not sure what you mean by critical and friendly cover but am at the moment looking for an English Teacher. The school at present stands at 167 students across all abilities. class size ranges from 2 to 18. It is a great place to work and the Falklands are breathtakingly beautiful.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 08/06/2018 - 13:17

Neil: Unfortunately I'm retired or I might have applied for the job.

I left teaching  on early retirement after nearly twenty years of teaching mainly GCSE English/Eng Lit and Business Studies.  But I was burnt out with constant changes to exam syllabuses and curriculum (for example, I was put in charge of 'cross-curricular themes'.  Some minister had described these as the 'glue' that cemented the curriculum subjects together.  But they lasted about a nano-second.  Such a waste of time).

It's got worse since I left teaching - ministerial interference is beyond intolerable.  It's smashing up education in England with a monstrous wrecking ball.

Neil Appleby's picture
Fri, 08/06/2018 - 17:24

Janet: That is such a shame as I actually need English and Business. I was one of the disappeared Headteachers. I stood against academisation systematically throughout my Headship, I was ideologically opposed to it and could see at it's inception that it was both fundamentally flawed and would only result in a fractured and broken education system. Put that alongside the maniac Gove and that swivel eyed loon Morgan and I started my first Headship in what was to be the toxic six years in modern English education. Unfortunately RI is the new special measures and the Ofsted team came in with a clear academisation agenda, it was quite apparent that the independency of OFSTED is absolute bunk. The tale was then depressingly familiar. And the UK loses another Head whose driving values was to put the young people first.

It took a while to heal but I am now here and loving it.

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