St Neots Learning Partnership investigation to remain unpublished

The government has said it will not publish the results of an investigation into payments made by a failed Cambridgeshire academy trust to two private companies.

The St Neots Learning Partnership was issued a financial notice to improve in August over ten-year “grant advances” it had made to the unnamed companies.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency said the payments were in breach of academy funding rules and requested SNLP to investigate.

But a letter seen by Schools Week reveals that the ESFA does not intend to make the outcome public.

Responding to a freedom of information request Mike Pettifer, director of academies and maintained schools at the ESFA, confirmed that the investigation was completed last month and a confidential report shared between trustees and the ESFA, but there were “no plans to publish”.

Government rules say investigations into academies must be published except in the most exceptional cases where it could, for example, prejudice a police investigation or have an acute detrimental impact on a person or group.

The ESFA also does not publish reports carried out “as part of routine business” or “routine self-assessments undertaken by an institution”.

But Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the information was “a clear matter of public interest”.

“Once again, the government has failed to ensure either transparency or accountability about a clear matter of public interest,” she said, “leaving the strong suspicion that when their system fails, ministers would rather cover up than own up.”

Karl Wainwright, chairman of trustees at SNLP, told local paper the Hunts Post in August: “As far as we are concerned they were not loans but were contractual arrangements to bring extra services to the school.

“We believe what we did at the time was correct.”

In February the SNLP received a pre-termination warning notice from the ESFA saying it faced closure over “unacceptably low” standards at its school Ernulf Academy.

Ernulf and the trust’s other school, Longsands Academy, subsequently transferred to the Astrea Academy Trust in September.

The SNLP will be wound up when it has met the conditions of the financial notice to improve.