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Thursday 9 January 2014

Gove’s Free Schools – Now It’s Fraud

[Update at end of post]

As if the litany of bad news coming out of his flagship Free Schools programme were not bad enough, Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove now has to contend with a principal at one of them getting himself nicked on a fraud charge. So no wonder that neither his retinue of polecats at the @toryeducation Twitter feed, nor other little helpers like the loathsome Toby Young, are saying anything on the subject.
Yes, you, "Oiky", and it's still our money

Indeed, @toryeducation, the domain of Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, has said nothing for three days, even keeping schtum when Laura McInerney revealed the escalation of her Freedom of Information quest after “Oiky” had blocked it, despite the Information Commissioner finding in her favour. And Tobes has said nothing about matters educational since before Christmas.

Even then, his ramblings were directed only to whingeing about someone at the hated BBC not framing stories in a way which was ideologically acceptable to Himself Personally Now. So who has been nicked, and what’s the back story? Well, this all concerns Kings Science Academy near Bradford, and events kicked off in earnest back in October, as the Beeb observed.

One of the country's flagship free schools has been accused of serious financial mismanagement. An Education Funding Agency (EFA) report reveals allegations of financial irregularities and even possible fraud” their report told. The following month it got worse: “Three men have been interviewed by police in connection with suspected fraud at a free school”. And which Free School?

The men were interviewed under caution as part of an investigation relating to Kings Science Academy in Bradford”. And there it stayed until the Yorkshire Post splashed today thatHead teacher arrested in fraud probe at Bradford free school”, with an embarrassingly captioned photo “David Cameron meets head teacher Sajid Raza and children from Kings Science Academy, Bradford on a visit last year”. Oh dear!

This has now been picked up by the Bradford evening paper the Telegraph and Argus, and also the BBC, although the latter is yet to name Raza. And there is a problem for “Oiky” and his pals: the Yorkshire Post is not a publication that can be dismissed as a sundry leftist rag. It is solidly and unswervingly Conservative (Margaret Thatcher’s former spinner Bernard Ingham has a regular column).

The Yorkshire Post has also noted that Gove refused to confirm details of the application process that led to Kings Science Academy opening. Moreover, its latest report signs off with “The vice-chairman of the Conservative Party Alan Lewis is the school’s executive patron and the Kings Science Academy has been built on his company’s land in a deal worth almost £6m in rent over 20 years”.

So that’s another rum business with our money involved. No surprise there, then.

[UPDATE 10 January 1140 hours: it just got a lot worse for the Government: the Yorkshire Post has been digging further into the Kings Science Academy saga, has found that the DfE put the Police off investigating the claims of financial irregularity, and that this may have been deliberate.

When news of the school's problems were first discovered, the DfE claimed it had "informed the Police who decided no further action was necessary".

However, and this is rather a big however, "it then emerged the case had only been passed on to Police as an information report, meaning no investigation had taken place". In other words, the message to the Police was that it had been checked out by the DfE and there was nothing to see.

Only after this was a "crime report" made and a Police investigation started. And the Yorkshire Post has discovered that the DfE "did not pass on its own investigation report into the school or any written findings but reported it with a phone call".

The DfE has said it did not pass on that report because it had not been requested. But it would not be, as they had already effectively told the Police that no investigation was needed.

The more digging goes on, the more ripe this one smells - not just the irregularities at the school, but the impression that the DfE is trying to cover it up. No doubt there will be more soon]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being not a million miles from bradford I have been following this and it stinks of a cover up.

The issue was reported to authorities last April, but only came to light 6 months later. Plenty of history on telegraph and argus website.