An academy trust set to have its funding axed by the government has hit back – blasting department officials for “waging a campaign” against the school, and has vowed to fight any “slur” on the trust or its staff.
The Education Funding Agency issued Durand Academy Trust with a notice of intention to terminate its funding agreement yesterday, claiming the trust has failed to comply with six of eight requirements set out in an earlier warning.
Now the trust has responded, claiming the government has waged a campaign against the school that has been “been characterised by misrepresentation, half truths and inaccuracies”.
A statement, released last night, read: “The academy feels today’s action is motivated not by a desire to see the best for the children in the academy’s care, but by personal and political discomfort at an academy fulfilling it’s remit – i.e. providing educational excellence at the same time as financial security.”
In July, the trust – championed by former education secretary Michael Gove (pictured right) – was told to address concerns over finances and potential conflicts of interest and sever ties with its chair of governors and former executive head, Sir Greg Martin (pictured).
However, as revealed by Schools Week, the trust refused to meet all the conditions.
The statement added: “The academy stands by it’s ex-head, Sir Greg Martin (who was knighted for his services to education) and will fight today’s EFA decision, and any slur on Martin’s character or good name, as well as the character and good name of the academy and any of the staff involved who are dedicated to the education of their pupils, as a matter of principle.”
Martin, who resigned as head last year, faced criticism from MPs after it emerged he was paid more than £400,000 in salary from the school and management fees from London Horizons, which runs the school’s leisure facilities on a commercial basis.
He also ran a dating agency with the company registered at the school’s address.
But the trust claimed academies should be able to make a profit, and use the cash as they see fit to improve facilities for pupils.
Durand Academy will continue to fight this decision
“Durand Academy will continue to fight this decision as we feel strongly that unless we are vindicated the future education of this country’s children will suffer and that the principle must be established that a self-governing academy has the right to make a profit and surpluses for the benefit of the children in its care and to use this profit and surpluses as it sees fit to improve the facilities on offer to its children and their local community.
“It is through this philosophy that Durand has been able to found and fund the country’s only free state boarding school which is offered for the use of all its pupils.”
Most of the government’s original demands related to the structure of the trust and conflicts of interest surrounding its association with several other organisations.
They included Durand Education Trust, which owns land occupied by Durand Academy in Lambeth and has been under investigation by the Charity Commission, and London Horizons Limited, which runs the school’s leisure facilities on a commercial basis.
Mark McLaughlin, the trust’s interim executive headteacher, previously told Schools Week that Durand Education Trust would meet a condition to transfer back £1.8 million to the academy trust, as long as the EFA gave reassurances it would not confiscate the cash.
The termination letter gives the trust a year’s notice, after which the government can either find a new sponsor or close the school.