Academies and Free Schools Lack Democratic Accountability

The latest case of an alleged Academy scandal highlights the lack of democrat accountability that local authority schools would have as a matter of course.

Barnfield College, which is taking over schools in and around Luton and turning them into academies, is being investigated by the Department For Education. The college has appeared to have wrongly claimed nearly £1m for students it could not account for, a government report has found. The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) report says significant failures in the management structure led to improper use of college funds.

Barnfield took took over and changed two local schools into academies in 2007 and since then the Federation has taken over several more. However, in the light of these allegations plans to convert more schools in Luton, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard have been put on hold.The director general Sir Peter Birkett resigned back in July, presumably having seen the writing on the wall.

This is not the first case of financial irregularities seen in academies and free schools.

For example officials from the Education Funding Agency, which oversees the funding of free schools and academies, are seeking to recover at least £162,000 claimed to have been misspent by Glendene Arts Academy, a specialist visual arts academy for pupils with special needs in Easington Colliery, Co Durham.

In January, the founder and principal of the Kings Science Academy in West Yorkshire, one of the first free schools to be opened, was arrested and bailed by police.

Last year one of the biggest academy chains, E-ACT, was criticised for spending on first-class travel, monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club in London and £393,000 of “financial irregularities”.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general-secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Once again we have a situation where a lack of accountability and democratic oversight has resulted in a police investigation into what we can only assume to be suspected criminal activities.”

He added: “It is clear beyond doubt that the Secretary of State and his officials cannot do the job of overseeing thousands of schools.”

Teachers, parents and governors must demand the return of schools to the control of Local Authorities and proper democratic accountability.

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