Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Academy chains have paid millions of pounds into private businesses

"Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school, plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the local authority. However, academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets to best benefit their students."

"Academies receive their funding directly from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) rather than from local authorities." DfE

Freedom of information requests show that taxpayer-funded academy chains have paid millions of pounds into the private businesses of their directors, trustees and relatives.
The payments have been made for a wide range of services including consultancy fees, curriculums, IT advice and equipment, travel, expenses and legal services by at least nine academy chains.
Critics fear that the Department for Education (DfE) is not closely monitoring the circulation of public money from academies to private firms.
While defending their use of public money, one trustee of an academy chain has called for increased scrutiny of their spending. Another said a director had resigned from the trust because of fears over a conflict of interest.
Grace Academy, which runs three schools in the Midlands and was set up by the Tory donor Lord Edmiston, has paid more than £1m either directly to or through companies owned or controlled by Edmiston, trustees' relatives and to members of the board of trustees.
Payments include £533,789 to International Motors Limited, a company owned by Edmiston, and £4,253 to Subaru UK Ltd, where he is the ultimate controlling party. More than £173,000 was also paid to the charities Grace Foundation and Christian Vision, both of which were set up by Edmiston. In addition, £108,816 has been paid to a company controlled by the son-in-law of one trustee.
Grace Academy also employs Gary Spicer, the brother of Lady Edmiston, as its executive director, on a salary of £30,000 plus pension. Spicer's own company received more than £367,732 from Grace Academy over the last six years for consultancy work.
Since 2010 more than 3,444 schools – including more than half of secondary schools – have taken on academy or free school status. Payments to businesses in which academy's trustees have a beneficial interest are allowed if the trust has fully complied with its procedures and conditions set out in the trust's articles of association. Before July 2010, the Charities Commission oversaw the governance of academies, but this was switched to the DfE in August 2011.
Another academy is reported to have been investigated by the Education Funding Agency because the school had obtained funding which it did not use for its intended purpose.

Kings Science Academy - which boasts Tory vice chair, Alan Lewis, as its executive patron - was among the first wave of free schools. It was visited and praised by Prime Minister, David Cameron, in 2012. 
It charged for first class travel, parties, buying furniture for staff and allegedly submitted ‘fabricated invoices’ to the Department for Education for rent it did not actually pay.

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