Alternative provision free school handed financial notice to improve

Alternative provision free school handed financial notice to improve

An alternative provision free school trust has been handed a financial notice to improve after a government investigation found it had “weak financial control” just two years after opening.

The CUL Academy Trust was warned over its finances in a notice published today by the Education Funding Agency.

It follows an investigation into the trust, which runs a 13-19 AP school in Birmingham, that found safeguarding issues, weak governance and financial management.

The investigation, also published today, said the safeguarding issues have now been addressed.

Sue Baldwin, director of the academies and maintained group at the Department for Education, wrote: “I recognise the cooperation and extensive discussions that have taken place between the trust and officials.

“However, my concerns remain in relation to the weak financial management and governance controls of the trust and the impact of this on the trust’s current and future position.”

The trust set up CUL Academy in 2014. According to the New School Network charity website, the school caters for 50 pupils at capacity and focuses on improving attainment for youngsters with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties by educating them in a “tight-knit, family style environment”.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) investigated the trust in July 2015 after receiving allegations relating to financial management and governance.

Government officials found the trust had breached the academies handbook, including having no chief finance officer in position. The investigation found no evidence that the trust’s budget forecast return had been approved by the full governing body.

There were also issues found over the trust’s recruitment process with a staff member, related to the principal, claiming he was interviewed by only the principal, with no involvement of staff or governors.

The investigation read: “Urgent action is required to strengthen governance, financial procedures and management arrangements to ensure trustees fully understand their obligations as company directors and charity trustees.”

The financial notice to improve means the trust must now meet conditions imposed by ministers, including an independent finance review and draw up an action plan, or face losing its funding.

The trust has been contacted for comment.