UK: Academies: Governance Problems Still Unresolved

Last Updated: 20 May 2016
Article by Henry Ker

Government's U-turn on compulsory academisation is welcome while governance problems still exist

Sceptics of the Government's budget plans to force all schools to convert to or have plans in place to convert to academies by 2022 have welcomed the recent U-turn on the proposal.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has stated the government 'listened to the feedback from parliamentary colleagues and the education sector ... [and would] now change the path to reaching that goal' − although in the face of industrial action by teachers and scant support from anyone in the media it could be argued they had no choice but to listen.

The change of path follows Nicky's speech to National Association of Head Teachers on 30 April, in which she said the mandatory conversion is 'the right step for our education system'.

Perry Beeches multi-academy trust

Despite this positive development, this week also saw storm clouds gathering around academy governance.

The Executive Head, Liam Nolan, of Perry Beeches multi-academy trust (MAT) – which looks after five schools in Birmingham – recently resigned from the organisation.

He had already stepped down as the trust's chief executive after an investigation earlier in the yearuncovered financial mismanagement. 

This leaves the MAT without sponsors and mounting financial issues.

This is the same MAT that was once celebrated by David Cameron as among the best in Britain, lauding it as 'one of the most successful comprehensive schools ever in Britain' in 2013.

A damning report in March by the Education Funding Agency (EFA), the Department for Education's financial watchdog, alleged financial mismanagement at the MAT; what they called 'a failure by the trustees and the Accounting Officer to maintain high standards of probity and stewardship over the management of public funds.'

Allegedly, debts have been estimated by one member of staff to be around £1.8 million and are continuing to rise.

The EFA report found Nolan was paid £160,000, on top of his regular salary as executive head, between 2013 and 2015.

The money went via a company called Nexus to another company, Liam Nolan Ltd − this contravened Treasury guidelines as well as academies' financial rules.

Further irregularities included nearly £1.3 million in payments without contracts to Nexus: 'No evidence of a formal procurement exercise, including quotations and tendering, was available for expenditure with Nexus,' the EFA said.

It also found more than £2.5 million in free school meal funding could not be confirmed because the records had been deleted.

Future Academies

Lord Nash, schools minister, has been allowing his daughter to teach at Future Academies in Pimlico, London – the school he founded − despite her lack of a teaching qualification. She has also allegedly been helping to draw up a new curriculum.

Despite being unpaid, there have been concerns raised by parents and a teachers' union.

However, academy schools have had the option to hire unqualified teachers – a move which has unsurprisingly irked many teachers.

Some commentators have also raised questions about a seeming conflict of interest and nepotism on display.

The Westminster branch Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Michael Parker, was reported as saying he was baffled the situation: 'I find it extraordinary that an unpaid, untrained and unqualified volunteer is being allowed to teach children. This is an example of what parents need to be prepared for if the deregulation of education continues.

'Teachers and parents need to be able to trust the system of governance at Future Academies to oversee an untrained and unqualified teacher. It is difficult ... when the academy trust was set up by an unqualified teacher's parents and her father is the minister for schools.'

Louise Thomson, Head of Policy (Not-For-Profit) at ICSA commented: 'Conflicts of interests appear to be a running theme in many of the media stories covering MATs ... It is essential that boards understand what conflicts of interest are, what damage they can do and how they can be managed to protect the reputation not just of the organisation but of individual board members.'

Cause for concern

These are perhaps just the first of many issues to come out in the governance of academies – a new and relatively untested structure will always have teething problems, however there is cause for specific concern with academies.

ICSA has raised concerns about the governance at MATs, recently submitting to the Education Committee's inquiry on the issue.

Louise explains: 'As the written evidence, from a range of interested parties, to the Education Committee demonstrates many MATs are struggling to put in place effective governance arrangements that meet the needs of the schools and the requirements of regulators.

'For good governance to become the norm across the sector, it requires a system-wide approach and consistency that enables the desires of regulators and schools to be focussed on the delivery of high quality and safe education for pupils. The governance challenge for MATs is to learn from other sectors and develop a holistic system of oversight, transparency and accountability that enables MATs to achieve the best for their pupils.'

Although academisation is the right option for many schools, until these problems in the system are rectified – as well as the financial issues at Perry Beeches and conflicts of interests arising from the relaxing of educational laws for academies – the news that schools will not have to convert their status is welcome.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.