'Serious failings' at academy chain
02 May 2012
The rapid growth of academy chains has been one of the most significant - if relatively quiet - developments in schools policy in England. There has already been concern about the very large salaries paid to some of the Chief Executives of these chains, many of which now have numbers of schools running into double figures.
So this week's outcome of the Department for Education's investigation into the Lincolnshire-based Priory Federation, which has three schools in it, is an important warning sign. The investigation found 'serious failings' in relation to financial management. The Federation's Trust has accepted responsibility and the Chief Executive, Richard Gilliland, has left.
The full report is worth reading for the shocking details of how an individual manager could so drastically misuse school funds. These include using schools funds for personal use and the purchase and decoration of a floor of a Manor House to meet the needs of the CEO and his wife not the needs of the Federation.
There are now 48 academy chains, covering nearly 350 academies. Some are getting very big and are almost mini-local education authorities. Indeed just 9 chains account for 182 open or planned academies.
As has been documented by The Guardian, several of the senior staff of these chains receive salaries in the region of £200,000 a year.
A recent report by Robert Hill into academy chains for the National College of School Leadership found that in a couple of cases schools are contributing more than 6% of their General Annual Grant to the chain for central administration and running costs.
Big salaries and expensive bureaucracy -- does that remind you of the complaints we used to hear about Local Education Authorities?