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Revealed: Bolton Wanderers Free School’s £380k deficit

A free school linked to a former premier league football club had a deficit of more than £380,000 when it shut its doors, accounts reveal.

Bolton Wanderers Free School closed last summer, less than three years after it opened. It had been branded ‘inadequate’ in all areas by Ofsted in a 2016 report which described a “culture of low aspirations”.

Last March, Schools Week revealed the school paid almost £600,000 to Bolton Wanderers Football Club in rent and utility bills in just two years.

The latest accounts for the Eddie Davies Educational Trust, the charity named after the club’s former owner Eddie Davies, which sponsored the school, show it closed with a general deficit of £381,072. The school also had a £212,000 deficit in its pension reserves.

The shortfall in general funds is due to the fact the school owed hundreds of thousands of pounds to the government. It was ordered to pay back £510,987 it received on the basis of over-estimated pupil numbers in 2015 and 2016. The debt is now likely to be written off.

In the year to August 31, the free school spent £1,322,018, which is £409,357 more than the £912,661 it received in income. The school had £172,411 in the bank at the end of August last year.

Last year, the school faced criticism over its use of public money.

A Schools Week investigation found that during its first two years of operation, the school paid Bolton Wanderers £504,000 to share its Macron stadium under a “non-cancellable operating lease”.

In the academic year 2014-15 the rent was £174,000, rising to £330,000 in 2015-16. The school roll went up by five in that time.

The latest accounts show the school paid £308,317 in rent and rates in 2016-17. The school also shelled out £109,000 in redundancy payments in its final year.



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  1. Michael

    What a shambles! Surely someone would have done a “due diligence” on these arrangements. They probably did! It was probably done by civil servants with short term performance maanagement targets related to opening free schools.

    The system is rudderless! We have had a centralising National Schools commissioner, who has produced such babblespeak models as “improving decliners”. The system led vision is in reality dead. His centralising approach has led to an Academy and Free School system overseen by bureaucrats in London.

    Apparently his replacement (possibly on a temporary basis) is someone who is a career civil servant and has no history of working in schools or the school system. A National Schools Commisioner and a Cheif Inspector with no background or experience in direct service provision! Why is anyone surprised when the service provision malfunctions. There is no political leadership or vision. This leads to the Civil Service filling the vacuum and the inevitable toxic combination of centralisation and short termism. It is this short termism that approves projects such as this one.

    I have not seen such a rudderless education system for a long time. Disasters such as this are a symptom of a deeper and worrying malaise.

    Civil Servants advise ministers, when there is weak political leadership the inevitable happens. They act on their advice. Worrying times.