Sussex

Durand Academy may close amid 'serious financial concerns'

Sir Greg Martin Image copyright Durand Academy
Image caption The Education Funding Agency has written to the chair of governors Sir Greg Martin

A chain of academies could face closure amid "serious concerns" over how it is governed and its use of public money.

The Durand Academy Trust (DAT) runs an infant and junior school in Stockwell, south London and a boarding school for older pupils in Midhurst, West Sussex.

The Department for Education said the trust had been issued with a pre-termination warning notice and had until 1 August to respond.

The trust said the warning notice was "wholly unwarranted".

'Lack of clarity'

Durand Academy, which has more than 1,000 pupils at its three sites, received £17m from the government to set up the school for weekly boarders in 2014.

Last year the Charity Commission investigated the relationship between the academy and DAT, a separate body that runs and governs it.

It came after parliament's Public Accounts Committee said there was an "unacceptable lack of clarity" over who owned assets held by the trust.

Image copyright Durand Academy
Image caption Durand Academy set up its boarding school at the for St Cuthman's site in Midhurst

The government's Education Funding Agency (EFA) has written to Durand's chair of governors Sir Greg Martin, setting out its provisional intention to terminate the funding agreement.

It said acting executive head teacher Mark McLaughlin should either resign from any company of which Sir Greg is a director or in which he has a shareholding or resign from DAT to "to remedy the breaches that have occurred".

Schools minister Lord Nash said: "This is not a decision I have taken lightly given the trust's commitment to providing an excellent education to its pupils, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds and difficult circumstances.

"However after repeatedly failing to address serious concerns about the school's governance, the effective use of public money and its failure to comply with the standard rules all academy trusts must follow, we have taken this decision to safeguard the future education of Durand's pupils. "

Sir Greg said the governing board was surprised and disappointed the EFA issued the letter.

"They are disappointed the EFA failed to share with the board the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the school's finances and as such they are not in a position to fully comment," he said.

"The Governing Board is seeking legal advice and will fully respond in due course."

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