Durand Academy’s much-hyped free boarding school is in £476,000 deficit – after just one year

England’s first boarding free school has made a £476,000 loss after spending more than £15,000 per pupil, despite predicting it could run it for just over £2,000 per child.

South London’s Durand Academy opened a satellite boarding free school in Sussex in September 2014. It was the first in the country not to charge parents for boarding services, and places were given to 49 of the school’s existing year 8 pupils, who were bussed from Lambeth and stayed at the school from Monday to Friday.

But figures in Durand Academy Trust’s annual accounts for 2014/15 show the school spent £765,130 providing boarding facilities, while only receiving an income of £289,093 towards the scheme from its commercial arm London Horizons Limited, which runs the school’s leisure facilities.

When the school was first planned, its founders said the school would be able to run for as little as £2,051 per head for 375 pupils, a figure described by the then headteacher of state boarding school Wymondham College, Melvyn Roffe, in early 2014 as “implausibly low”.

Durand said in its plans that the cost of providing boarding services would be significantly lower than those incurred by other boarding schools, as a result of an extended school day , which lasts from 8.15am to 9.30pm and could therefore be funded from government cash. This kept down the cost of designated boarding hours, which are usually subsidised by parents, but, in the case of Durand, were planned to be subsidised by philanthropy.

Robin Fletcher, director of the State Boarding Schools Association, said he would not comment on Durand’s accounts, but confirmed his organisation usually assessed the cost of boarding as being “between £10,000 and £12,000 a year” per pupil, or between £50 and £60 a day for “accommodation, food, medical care and pastoral supervision” based on a seven-day week.

Addressing Durand’s original claim to be able to run boarding provision for around £2,000 a year, Mr Fletcher said: “I don’t think I can really comment on how one school is modelling it, but what I can say is that the average for the sector is higher than that.”

Durand Education Trust, which owns the land where both schools operate, remains under investigation by the Charity Commission over conflicts of interest, and after the school was criticised by MPs for the “gobsmacking” £420,000 salary paid to former executive headteacher Sir Greg Martin.

Sir Greg, now vice-chair of governors at Durand, was asked about the deficit but insisted it was a “ground-breaking school”, which offered “huge opportunities” to children in Lambeth, including through “innovative projects such as the boarding school”.

He added: “Inevitably, this means our finances are more complex than other schools.”

In a statement, he said staff and governors were “focused on delivery, outcomes and achievements” and would not be commenting further on the school’s finances.

Instead Sir Greg said Schools Week should challenge the government and the prime minister “to justify why they are failing to deliver on their supposed commitment to offer working class children access to the premium Eton style education that they enjoyed, and that Durand is already delivering.”

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  1. As chief executive of a company you take £400,000 out of the business in salary, and the company makes a £400,000 loss. You then blame the government for not putting enough money in.

    An 11 year old could tell you what the underlying problem might be. And they wouldn’t need to charge you for the advice. Sadly the DfE is unlikely to be able to give a straightforward view on this crazy situation as they have consistently told us that everything about free schools is great and beyond reproach.

    Feels like another Kids Company fiasco to me, where no-one can tell “truth to power”, when it comes to over generous and lax use of taxpayer funds.

    • When Sir Greg Martin was up in front of the Public Accounts Committee last year he was asked if the assets of Durand Education Trust, the charity which was mistakenly removed from the Charities Commission register, were public or private. He was also asked if the transfer to DET was to keep the assets out of reach of the Education Secretary. His reply to that question was ‘Yes’.
      As the above article says, the Charities Commission is now investigating DET.

  2. Janee

    Not a new problem with Durand
    Jan-13 Durand Academy Ofsted report disappears from Ofsted website
    May-14 Durand Academy Trust Durand Academy Sir Greg Martin ordered to terminate contract between school and his company
    May-14 Durand Academy Head’s salary and expenses increase by 56% in 2013
    Oct-14 Durand Academy Boarding school still not open, despite pupils being accepted
    Nov-14 Durand Academy NAO criticism of links, DfE end arrangements
    Jan-15 Durand Educational Trust Durand Academy transferred from Durand Academy Trust to Durand Educational
    Jan-15 Durand Academy Public Accts Cttee: financial notice and high salary
    Aug-15 Durand Education Trust Durand Academy Exec Head retires financial investigation
    Feb-16 Durand Education Trust Durand Academy (Sussex) £1/2 million deficit

  3. Parent

    As I see all these negative news about Durand, it always occurs to me that if the children were all white and suited the location would Durand be in the news so often. England is just one racist country and only support white supremacy. England is grey like you old white men that all have the same agenda, corruption, money and keeping the country white. Christian country my backside.

  4. It seems that most people are judging the school based on media headlines rather than facts. The school consistently performs above the national average and also has a business set up using private funds at no cost to the tax payer. The revenue has provided free music tuition, sports lessons for children, an after-school club which provides a freshly-cooked meal and runs till 6.30pm at a nominal cost of £1.50, allowing many parents to work who could not do so otherwise. It also developed a swimming pool at each site with all children from reception having lessons once a week. In addition to this without any help from the Government the school funded the development of a boarding school for the children year 8 and above where they have small classes, rugby, chess clubs etc and most importantly are taken out of their local environments to experience the type of education normally reserved for public and grammar schools. How can this be classed as a failing school educationally or financially. In summary the school was promised 17m from Gove to help deliver the project. As soon as Gove left, despite consistently having a history of and receiving good ofsteds and no issues highlighted during the many previous audits, suddenly, apparently the school is deemed as failing and the EFA are no longer willing to support the project. I’ll tell you whats happened here, due to political climate it is no longer deemed acceptable to handover 17m to the project, but rather than do a u turn knowing how devastating it will be for the children who won’t get this opportunity the EFA and audit office now coincidentally have an issue with a school they once hailed as innovative as it allows a perfect opportunity for the funds to be withdrawn. But I guess for most of the critics who have had a great education you’re willing to pull the drawbridge up after you. On behalf of all the children who will be left to fade into the local failing schools thank you.