Administrative error! An intriguing phrase considering the fact that the Prime Minister is hosting a summit on corruption and throwing around brickbats regarding foreign countries. But ironically it appears to be fast becoming the standard defence for organizations associated with David Cameron and under investigation by authorities. The Conservative Party’s election expenses scandal revealed by Channel 4 News is supposedly an ‘administrative error’, the same explanation used by the Perry Beaches Academy Trust School chain in Birmingham.
The Chief Executive of Perry Beeches has resigned and the governing body is stepping down amid serious issues with incorrect governance. In March the Academy had to pay back £118,000 of Government (ie our) money as it failed to keep proper records on school meals. Now a whistleblower as revealed that the CE Liam Nolan was apparently paid an extra £160,000 via a third party over 3 years on top of his £120,000 a year salary. This led the Education Funding Agency to issue a Financial Notice to Improve. But Mr Nolan’s determination to grab a much bigger salary is no real surprise. Back in November 2014 he was already complaining that his salary was too low compared with other school heads. So another example of a greedy salary race to the top now fostered by a competitive Free School system.
This would not be so bad if the officials actually deserved it. But last July one of Perry Beeches schools (III) was placed in special measures by OFSTED leading to a written apology from Nolan. Along with poor ‘management performance’ the teaching was rated as dull and student behaviour was regarded as less than acceptable. Importantly, the leadership was heavily criticised for having an “unrealistic and inaccurate” view of the school, leaving governors with the impression it was doing better than it was.
But remember that Perry Beeches III school was opened by David Cameron himself in September 2013, describing the school as having a ‘brilliant team’! This is on top of the plaudits of then-Education Secretary Michael Gove making a comparison with Oxford and Cambridge. Oversight and accountability of Free Schools is a real issue which the Government has failed to properly address. We cannot simply consign our children’s education to those motivated by greed and ever more power