school funding

Multi-academy trusts are getting away with “the fraudulent misuse of public money” while Ofsted and schools commissioners fight a turf war, a union leader has warned.

Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, used her speech to the ATL conference this morning to call for the resurrection of the “public service ethos” in schools.

She said Ofsted is “not fit for purpose”, and warned that as a result of “turf disputes about who inspects what” between the inspectorate and regional schools’ commissioners, academy trusts are misusing money “given to them for children’s education”.

The growth of the academies programme and subsequent increase in the influence held by regional schools commissioners has blurred the lines between different levels of accountability within England’s schools system.

The situation is so severe that Damian Hinds, the education secretary, last month pledged to “clarify” the roles of the two sides to address confusion in schools.

Bousted said Ofsted’s role must be reviewed, and appealed to academy trustees and chief executives to run their organisations more ethically.

“Conference, if you are an academy trustee you should be doing a public duty, giving the best governance to the academy, or academy chain, you are a trustee of. If you are the CEO of an academy chain, you should be running it with a public service ethos,” she said.

“You should not be awarding yourself £50,000 rises while your teaching and support staff suffer under austerity pay rates for years and years. You should not be setting up companies, run by your daughter or your wife or some other relation, to provide ‘services’ to your school, extracting profit, lots of profit, £120 million-worth, out of public service.”

Bousted finished her speech by “resurrecting the public service ethos”.

“Schools must be places for all our children and young people to be educated. They should not be market driven places where pupils are ‘off-rolled’ if they are not going to be entered for the EBacc.

“Schools must be places for all our children and young people, and that includes those with SEND. Because we have so much to learn from children and young people with SEND and our schools lose so much when they are not inclusive.

“Schools and colleges must be places where all education professionals, teachers, lecturers, support staff, are valued and treasured for the work they do. Because if they are not, we lose them and their talents. And our education system cannot afford to lose their talents, skills experience and expertise.”