DfE silent on Education Fellowship Trust's payouts

The government has refused to explain why a now defunct academy trust set aside more than £100,000 for golden handshake pay-offs.

Overdue accounts for the Education Fellowship Trust, which is in the process of being wound up after giving away its 12 schools, reveal that £217,000 was spent on staff restructuring costs last year.

However, £115,000 of that is listed as non-contractual severance payments, £30,000 of which was paid to a staff member in May last year, with another £1,339 paid out in June.

That left £83,339 “accrued” by August 31 last year – meaning the money had been set aside to be paid out at a later date.

The accounts suggest this payment is set to go to just one person, whose salary for the year was listed as at least £210,000.

The unnamed employee was paid between £100,000 to £110,000 in the previous year. The difference in salary for 2018 is down to “accrual for statutory and non-statutory/non-contractual severance payments” totalling nearly £117,000.

The Department for Education’s website states such “special” severance payments are “under close scrutiny”. Any payments over £50,000 have to get government approval.

When asked if this had been sought, the DfE refused to comment. It also refused to provide further information about the payments as it “relates to third-party personal data”.

VSH Law, solicitors acting for the trust, did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

The Education Fellowship Trust was founded by Sir Ewan Harper, an architect of academies policy under Tony Blair. It gave up its schools across Northamptonshire and Wiltshire and in Maidenhead, blaming financial constraints.