Hinds and Slater: 5 things we learned from their questioning by MPs

Isolation booths, MAT transparency, funding and SEND support were all on the agenda, as education secretary Damian Hinds and his top official Jonathan Slater faced MPs. Tes reports

Here are five things we learnt from their questioning by the Commons Education Select Committee:

1. MAT transparency

Mr Slater faced a barrage of questions over the financial transparency of multi-academy trusts (MATs).

MP Thelma Walker took aim at what she said was a lack of accountability in collapsed MATs, saying that “right now, it seems that parents are relying on whistleblowers and Freedom of Information battles” to find out the truth.

Mr Slater said when a MAT closes, the surplus goes to the successor trust, citing the £1 million or so transferred to Dunraven when it took over the Durand Academy. If a MAT goes bust leaving debts, he said the government would chase down any improperly spent money.

2. Related party transactions

Mr Slater also revealed the latest data on the tricky subject of “related party transactions” in MATs.

Pressed by MPs, he said the department had looked into 180 cases in 2016-17 and found 59 “wanting”, worth some £7 million. The previous year, MATS paid out more than £120 million for 3,033 related-party transactions, including 70 worth more than £250,000.

The government is bringing in new rules in April requiring academies to declare all related-party transactions to the ESFA in advance, and seek approval for those that exceed £20,000 either individually or cumulatively.

4. Isolation rooms

Mr Hinds was also asked to weigh in on the controversial question of whether schools should use isolation rooms to deal with troublesome students.

The education secretary said he understands the need for such rooms, but cautioned they must be used in a “proportionate and constructive way”. Asked if children should be made to do work if they are missing a lesson, Mr Hinds said it wasn’t for him to decide.

Read more including exchanges over the vast shortfall in funding for special needs pupils Hinds and Slater: 5 things we learned from their questioning by MPs

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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