TEACHERS' representatives in Birmingham want a suspension of the city’s Academies programme over a Government investigation into alleged financial irregularities by a private trust looking to sponsor three schools in the city.
A national report claims the Department for Children, Schools and Families is investigating concerns raised by Ian Comfort, former chief executive of Edutrust Academies Charitable Trust, on allegations of governance and financing irregularities at the organisation.
Edutrust, which is taking over Heartlands High, Shenley Court, and The College High as academy schools in Birmingham, is accused of mismanaging contracts said to be worth millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
The allegation centres on claims that Edutrust mishandled money awarded to open a string of academies across England, including the three in Birmingham.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “Some issues have been raised with us. We are looking into them with the full co-operation of Edutrust and will not comment further until that work is done.”
But both the Alliance Against Birmingham Academies and the city’s branch of the National Union of Teachers has called for action to halt the Academies programme locally.
Roger King, secretary of the Birmingham NUT, said: “We believe there should be a suspension of all progress of the Academies programme, in particular the three Edutrust schools.
“It cements our view that these sponsors aren’t simply in it for philanthropic reasons.
“It seems to be about gaining funds and not using them for what it was meant for.
“It also cements our view that the local authority completely failed in its guarantee that all sponsors would be from Birmingham and is now grabbing any sponsor that came along in order to save what has been an ailing Academies process.”
The Alliance Against Birmingham Academies, which last week launched a petition calling for a full ballot of affected parents, said it wants to “freeze” Edutrust’s bid to run the three city schools until the case has been heard.
A spokesman said: “In the light of these serious allegations, which if upheld by the inquiry would put in question the viability of Edutrust running the three proposed Birmingham Academies, we call on the council to immediately announce that any further progress in handing over the schools to Edutrust is put on hold until the outcome of the government inquiry clears them of any financial or other malpractice.”
A statement by Edutrust said it took accusations of mismanagement seriously.
They were taking legal advice on its response to the report that it mismanaged contracts worth millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
It added: “These allegations are not correct.”
The statement concluded: “Edutrust Academies Charitable Trust remains committed to ensuring that public funds are properly managed and used on the basis of value for money in the development of its academies and the education of the young people who study there.”