Whistle blowers who raised concerns about financial mismanagement at Woodfield School, an academy, have been vindicated by a report into a review by the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The National Education Union had cited these issues as one among many reasons to oppose the academisation of the Village School and the formation on a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with Woodfield. Village School education workers have taken strike action against the academisation proposals. In addition to to the finance problems there have also been concerns over equality at the school and the treatment of BAME staff. LINK
The review found that Woodfield, with a current roll of only 157 pupils, had paid consultants £400,000 since 2013-14 for various HR and financial services. They also found breaches regarding procurement, related party transactions (when a governor or trust member sells servics to the school), governor regulations and register of interests.
The NEU had repeatedly requested Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt to meet with them to discuss their concerns about the school.
The Executive Summary states:
Multiple concerns were received on 24 April 2018 in relation to Woodfield School, (hereafter referred to as the trust), raising concerns about financial management and governance. As a result, ESFA commissioned a financial management and governance review of the trust which took place from 25 to 27 June 2018.
The ESFA review identified a number of failings and weaknesses in financial management and governance arrangements that breach the Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) 2017, the accounts direction, the charities SORP and potentially tax legislation. These also validate the concerns raised. Key findings of the review have confirmed:
• in relation to procurement practises, non-compliance with the at cost requirements and the trust’s scheme of delegation (paragraphs 11 to 17 refer)
• failure to declare related party transactions with the former chair’s limited company in the audited accounts, as required by the accounts direction in relation to disclosure of material transactions with related parties and the Charities SORP relating to the disclosure of the remuneration and benefits received by charity trustees (paragraphs 18 to 21 refer)
• the trust engaged the services of two consultants, one from 2013/14 and the other from 2014/15 to July 2018. One of which held the role of chief financial officer (CFO) off-payroll, between 1 December 2015 and 26 June 2018, as well as being appointed as the chair of trustees and a member of the resources committee (paragraphs 22 to 24 and 31 to 34 refer)
• the trust have not reported their current governance arrangements and structure on their website and Get Information about Schools (GIAS) (paragraphs 25 to 30 refer)
• the trust’s register of interests has not been kept up to date (paragraphs 35 and 36 refer)
It is likely that the MAT proposal will be delayed until the ESFA are satisfied that the issues have been dealt with or perhaps the whole MAT project will be abandoned.
The full report is available below - click bottom right for a full-size version: