Academies claimed £1m to fund courses for ‘ghost’ pupils

The Times is reporting that the academies movement suffered another blow as an inquiry yesterday confirmed that a group of schools wrongly claimed almost £1 million to fund “ghost” pupils…

The Barnfield Federation, a group of schools and colleges in Luton, was also criticised over large payments made to its director-general when he left for another job.

Sir Peter Birkett, who resigned in September to become chief executive of a group of private schools, GEMS Education UK, was offered two lump sums and an additional month’s holiday and allowed to keep his Audi Q5 company car. None of the payments was a contractual obligation.

Governors defended the payments, saying that they were part of an agreement under which Sir Peter would not “poach” staff in his new role. He has since left his post at GEMS…

Hertfordshire Police investigated the group’s finances but said yesterday that they would take no further action…

The DfE issued Barnfield’s trust and two of its schools with financial notices to improve yesterday as it published reports by its Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency. These criticised the complex structure used by Barnfield’s flagship college to sponsor its academies. The group has applied to open more free schools.

Sir Peter was not identified in the published reports; names and details such as salary rates were redacted. An audit found that £941,000 was incorrectly claimed by the federation to fund school and college courses for more students than they were entitled to…

More at: Academies claimed £1m to fund courses for ‘ghost’ pupils (subscription required)

See this also from the TES on the principal and his company car: Barnfield College let former principal drive off with £30k company car due to ‘misunderstanding’

This was flagged up in advance, but any thoughts or insights now the situation has been confirmed? If it is apparently possible for one group to claim £1m that you shouldn’t be entitled to, can we be confident this kind of thing isn’t happening more widely, and not just in academies? Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Academies.


  1. Janet2

    In March 2012, Peter Birkett, then CEO of Barnfield, said he wanted to run his FE college for profit.  

    But all was not rosy: local opposition to plans for Barnfield to build a care home and housing on its land (v profitable that would have been), threatened strike action about conditions of service, the head of a free school run by Barnfield quitting after two terms citing interference…

    Yet Gove has praised him (he’s “amazing”).  He’s was been knighted for services for “outstanding service to further education and the academy movement”

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I’m sorry, but this would be quite shocking in the private sector, but with public money, isn’t this unforgivable?

  3. AJobTracker

    simon_ball46 usually counted as Household income below 60% of median. May be more up-to-date stats on that number 2016. My guess around 13m

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