It was hailed as another jolly good wheeze by Michael “Oiky” Gove and his hangers-on at the Department for Education (DfE): give more schools independence from local Government control, allow them to manage their own resources, enable new and more innovative management to come in, add a more motivated teaching workforce, and education standards would be miraculously raised as a result.
Zelo Street regulars will need no reminder on the subject of the sudden departure of head teacher Sam Naismith from the West London Free School, the domain of the loathsome Toby Young, after allegations of mis-spending, and there was also the case of King’s Science Academy in Bradford, where criminal charges have been brought, after allegations of fraud were made. And then came the Perry Beeches affair.
The Birmingham Mail has today told “Liam Nolan quits Perry Beeches academy chain following damning financial report”. Nolan is the so-called “Superhead”. Apparently “one Trust staff member estimated its debts as £1.8 million and rising by ‘tens of thousands of pounds’ a month”. There had been “a string of revelations concerning the chain's finances” and “In March, it emerged five academies and free schools run by the Trust were to be handed over to new managers”. There was also the Special Measures problem.
was put into Special Measures last year after a damning Ofsted report. Teaching at the school was branded “dull”, with the lead Inspector telling that “It fails to engage students, who become bored and start to fidget because they do not have enough to do or work that makes them think harder”. Raising expectations rather than standards, then.
And what of “Superhead” Nolan? “An investigation found Mr Nolan was paid an extra £160,000 over two years , on top of his £120,000 salary, via education company Nexus Schools Ltd”. It wasn’t just Nolan: Teachers at Perry Beeches schools were last year revealed to be among the best-paid in England, getting an average of £55,000 a year.
The Birmingham Mail finishes by noting “Birmingham City Council’s education chief Brigid Jones, a vocal critic, likened Mr Nolan to the infamous Kids Company and its charismatic leader Camila Batmanghelidjh in the way that he was feted by politicians, while there was apparent financial chaos behind the scenes”. Remove financial controls and scrutiny, then look the other way. What can possibly go wrong?
Michael Gove, like Boris Johnson, is a journalist by profession. They have both been talked up incessantly by their former colleagues, with their achievements looking less and less beneficial as time goes on. Maybe the Fourth Estate doesn’t know everything about everything after all.