Brent National Education Union responds to the ESFA report on Woodfield School financial irregularities. NEU statement below:-->
Damning ESFA Report exposes abject failures of Governance at Woodfield School.
£400,000 in wrongful payments uncovered.
An investigation by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) into financial irregularities related to the academy and Multi Academy Trust (MAT) conversion process between Woodfield academy school and The Village school in Brent has just been published.
£400,000 was wrongly paid to two consultants, one of whom was Greg Foley who acted simultaneously as Chair of Trustees, Member of the Finance Committee and Chief Financial Officer. (All this information can be found out from public records.) Those in charge at Woodfield failed utterly in their duty of oversight and care of monies that should have been spent on their special needs pupils.
Going onto the school Website and looking at the names of Trustees reveals that Kay Charles has been an ex-officio Trustee since September 2017. Kay Charles became the Executive Head of The Village and Woodfield school on the same date. Records show that she was in attendance at every Governing Board meetings for 2017/18.
Evaluation & strategic development
Head Performance management
The Village School
In the ESFA report there are repeated references to the Chair and Chief Finance Officer (CFO) breaching and not complying with the financial regulations of academy trusts. This was under her oversight.
Hank Roberts, Brent NEU President and National Executive member said:
“As whistleblower I feel totally vindicated by the findings of this report. The bankrupt academy system is an open invitation to help yourself to school funds. Kay Charles has proved herself inadequate to the task of halting this corruption. If she won’t put the interests of state education above her own, she should go.
“Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council and Sandra Kabir, Chair of Governors of The Village were warned that there were questions over the finances at Woodfield a year ago, yet neither expressed opposition to the proposal that Woodfield and The Village become a MAT. Now is the time they should show leadership and call for this proposal to be dropped rather than support this disaster in waiting. This is the agreed policy of Brent Constituency Labour Parties and recently was unanimously confirmed by the Local Campaign Forum (LCF) and fully supported by the local Labour MP Barry Gardiner.”
Governors and trustees of the two schools were aware of the financial situation and failed to act on NEU members’ concerns. Despite this, the majority of these governors and trustees are proposed as trustees and governors of the new MAT where they will be overseeing a budget almost twice as big.
Cllr Jumbo Chan, who has supported the campaign to stop the academisation throughout, said:
“The decision by the governing body of The Village to academise the school was wholly unnecessary and misguided. In light of the ESFA’s damning report into Woodfield School, it has further highlighted a dearth of wisdom at the heart of the decision.“In addition to offering no concrete benefit, the decision to academise ignored completely the swathes of concerns voiced by parents, campaigners, and the school’s own outstanding teachers and support staff.
“Nearly a year later, the academisation process has left The Village School in limbo, demoralising and sowing uncertainty amongst its committed staff.
“That the ESFA has now produced a litany of gross failings with regards to Woodfield School – including procurement, related party transactions, governance regulations and register of interests, including large payments of thousands of pounds of public money to consultants – corresponds to problems in the academisation process elsewhere.
The ESFA report is a wake-up call that leads to the unavoidable conclusion that the whole academisation process should immediately cease. I urge the governing body to now finally listen to its staff, and withdraw its application to academise, and remain within the Brent Council family of schools.”