Another academy trust has been put on financial notice to improve, after failing to obtain permission from the government for a land purchase, described as a “serious breach” of the academies financial handbook, Schools Week reports.
The Giles Academy in Lincolnshire, reportedly broke several agreements in the handbook including that it did not seek permission from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) before borrowing money to purchase the land.
The notice was addressed to Stephen Robinson, the Academy’s chair of trustees, who had been warned about “weak financial oversight” and copied to Ian Widdows, the recently installed headteacher, on November 1 2016.
The warning said the trust had failed to seek approval from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) for the purchase of agricultural land to convert into playing fields.
The notice also said the trust should have appointed a new chief financial officer after the previous one retired,
Mike Pettifer, the director of the government’s academies and maintained school group, who issued the notice, said the school had financed the purchase by negotiating a four-year repayment term from the seller, placing a legal charge over the trust’s existing land.
According to the academies financial handbook, academy trusts must get prior consent in writing from the EFA for acquiring land or buildings.
The rules also state that academy trusts must obtain approval for borrowing from any source “where such borrowing is to be repaid from grant monies or secured on assets funded by grant monies”.
“Further instances of non-compliance” within the trust, were emphasised, including not publishing the business and money interests of members, trustees, governors and accounting offers on its website.
Widdows, who was promotoed from his role as deputyhead in earlier this year, noted that the Academy’s “positive actions” taken since he became accounting officer, had been welcomed by the EFA, saying:
“Giles Academy Trust considers robust financial procedures to be a high priority and will continue to work with the EFA to further strengthen its position in terms of accountability and compliance.
In the meantime the school continues to deliver very high quality education and to provide the very best for all of its students.”