Head who earned more than £400,000 grilled over private companies including dating agency

Head who earned more than £400,000 grilled over private companies including dating agency

An academy headteacher who has earned hundreds of thousands of pounds from assets on the same site as his schools was grilled by MPs over his companies – including a dating agency.

Sir Greg Martin (pictured), head of Durand Academy, faced questions from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the work of his school, the Durand Academy Trust (DAT) and Durand Education Trust (DET) plus companies run by him and others close to the school’s leadership and governance.

Allegations during the committee included Sir Greg’s annual earnings – said to equal over £420,000 – and that a dating agency had been set up using an address on the school site.

The hearing followed a National Audit Office (NAO) report released last year, that raised concerns about “related-party transactions” made between the trusts and associated private companies.

MPs questioned the ownership of land used for Durand Academy in Stockwell, London, and Durand’s boarding school in Midhurst, West Sussex, which led to a point of disagreement between civil servants and Durand.

When asked what would happen if DET decided to sell the land, Education Funding Agency (EFA) chief executive Peter Lauener said: “It’s under the control of the secretary of state through the Academies Act 2010.”

But Sir Greg disagreed: “It’s the charity [DET] which owns the land, and the charity which makes those decisions. You’re quite right that in the future if they so wished the charity could sell that, but of course that would defeat the whole project.”

Sir Greg stated that if the land was sold the money would go into a charity held for the benefit of Durand school pupils.

He was also faced with questions about his pay, after it was revealed that he pocketed management fees through his firm GMG, which runs the London Horizons leisure facilities on the Stockwell school site. The committee revealed that earnings from GMG provided £161,000 in 2012/13 and £175,000 in 2013/14, on top of his headteacher’s salary of £229,138 in 2012/13.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “I’ve got to say to you, this is pretty gob-smacking stuff. You were earning, for one person running a primary school and developing a secondary school, you were paying yourself £420,000.”

But Sir Greg defended GMG’s work. He said: “It operates on private land and it’s a private company, but it is on the school site”.

Ms Hodge also grilled Sir Greg on the establishment of a dating agency registered at the same address as London Horizons Ltd and GMB Ltd, on the school site.

She said: “You have said you’ve got a hugely demanding role. How have you got time to launch a new dating business which operated out of the school premises until the end of last year?”

Sir Greg said: “This is my private life. A few friends and I decided to do a small business which I have a very minor share in and I am not a director now. It was always registered at the business address where I pick up the mail.

“Because I live on that site five days a week the mail comes there, that was it.”

Mr Lauener said the EFA and DfE would continue to try to reach an agreement with Durand about future governance, but that it would issue a financial notice to improve if its concerns were not met “within two months”.

Speaking after the hearing, Sir Greg said: “I welcomed the opportunity to explain the innovative model that has delivered so much for Durand pupils to members of the PAC today.

“As anyone who has taken the time to visit and understand Durand will know, its success is underpinned by the private investment it receives from the supporting enterprise, London Horizons.

“Not only am I proud of our record, but I believe it is absolutely essential that we don’t discourage innovation like this in the future. For me, it is all about driving aspiration and expanding choice and opportunity for children.”