Academy chiefs have been indulging themselves by staying in luxury hotels, travelling in first class and eating in the finest restaurants, all using taxpayers’ money according to a recent investigation.
According to the joint investigation carried out by the Observer and Channel 4 Dispatches based on audited school receipts, more than £1m of public money has been spent since 2012 by the largest 40 academy trusts.
Ian Cleland, Chief Executive of the Academy Transformation Trust has claimed a Jaguar car as an expense, whilst spending £3,000 on 1st class rail travel, according to the Unison website. He has also managed to use his publicly funded credit card to treat him and his colleagues to a £471 meal in a Marco Pierre White restaurant, and spend a further £703.45 in the Bank restaurant Birmingham, a report from the Daily Mail states.
Cleland is thought to earn in excess of £180,000 annually.
There is currently a poor economic microclimate within the ATT which has led schools in the chain to speak out, offering ways and asking for suggestions of how to save an ‘essential’ £500,000 ‘without impacting on the quality of education’.
The Observer have called to attention the lavish cheques that academy bosses are picking up. In an article sanctioned by Unison, they state that critics have deemed the spending ‘an extraordinary extravagance‘ laid bare for the first time due to the Freedom of Information Act.
In an interview for the Daily Mail website, Margaret Hodge, former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee told the programme:
“This money is supposed to be there for the education of our children.
“The governance system is inadequate, there ought to be proper oversight so these things don’t happen.”
Cleland has been at the centre of the criticism, but other incidents of academy heads using their privileges on trivial luxuries have come to light, including cases where senior executives of academy trusts have claimed rooms in golf clubs as expenses.
The Paradigm Trust pay for their CEO, Amanda Phillips to have broadband in her holiday home in France regardless of the £195,354 that she makes every year.
Sir Daniel Moynihan, the chief executive of the Harris Federation, earns £395,000 a year whilst rival academy founders, Stewart and Paula Kenning of the Aspirations Academies Trust top him with combined earnings of £400,000 per annum.
Amid the ‘academisation’ that is underway in the country at the moment, there are reports everywhere damming the system for being a ‘cash cow for businesses‘, as one Guardian reporter puts it. Others claim that it will force schools into becoming ‘exam factories’ and others that the element of competition will drive smaller schools into the ground.
Donald Trump has said that he would like to introduce more competition to the education system in the USA and that this could be done through charter schools, a similar concept to academy schools.
Ofsted have said in the past that the positive results academies churn out are no excuse for the exorbitant salaries that executives of school chains receive, a BBC report states.
The DfE will take ‘swift action’ where necessary to target unsanctioned overspending according to the Observer.