SERIOUS concerns about the governance and oversight of the Durand Academy have been expressed by the chairman of the government’s committee of public accounts, MP Margaret Hodge.
In a letter to Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the department for education, she outlined a series of concerns following examination of Durand’s financial affairs at an evidence session addressed by academy head Sir Greg Martin.
She told the permanent secretary her committee had repeatedly sought assurance that the risks to public money from the academy model of governance would be managed.
“The evidence we heard about the Durand Academy illustrates we were right to be concerned both about the scope for unacceptable behaviour and about the ability of the department for education and the education funding agency to identify and address it.”
She said there was an unacceptable lack of clarity over who ultimately owned assets currently held by Durand Education Trust.
Mrs Hodge added that governance arrangements and operating structures of the Durand Academy Trust and related organisations were ‘overly complex and opaque’.
“A lack of effective timely intervention by the department and the agency, combined with inadequate governance arrangements within Durand Academy, has allowed substantial private profit to be made out of public money and created serious conflicts of interest.”
And the chairman of the PAC added: “We commend the educational aspirations of Sir Greg Martin, but we are sure you will agree that this does not entitle him to make a substantial personal profit out of assets funded from the public purse.
She expressed concern about the setting-up of London Horizons Limited, established in 1997.
A spokesman for the Durand Academy said it was ‘a private business’. “Its assets and the income they generate are also private, not public funds. However, far from taking away from the state, the school and the children it serves have benefited tremendously from donations from the business.”
The South Downs National Park Authority is investigating a complaint from the academy about ‘unacceptable’ comments made during the debate on plans for school buildings at Stedham.
All members are to be sent on ‘diversity’ training.