Call for Darlaston Academy cash probe

Labour councillors in bid to make school Trust accountable.

In the light of the revelations that Grace Academy Trust has paid more than £1 million in fees to outside with direct links to the school’s sponsors and trustees, Walsall Council Labour Group is calling for the deputy leader of the authority, Cllr Adrian Andrew, to give a breakdown of how much money has been paid out by Darlaston Grace Academy. The Labour Group also want council officers to look at the possibility of bringing back the school and its 800 pupils under local authority control following its failure to meet government standards  for exam attainment.

The call by the opposition group on the council follows claims that the trust, which runs three publicly funded secondary schools in the Midlands, paid taxpayer’s money either directly to or through companies owned or controlled by the trust’s chairman, Lord Edmiston, to trustees’ relatives and to members of the board of trustees.  Although there is no evidence of any illegality, Labour councillors are deeply worried that Darlaston, which has been told it must improve by Ofsted, is paying out tax payer’s money which should be spent directly on children.

Barbara Cassidy, Labour spokeswoman on Children’s Services, said the school’s long standing performance of achieving around only 35% or less, of students obtaining the benchmark five GCSE A-C grades with English and Maths , and its Ofsted rating is of deep concern. “Sadly, Darlaston is not meeting the government’s target of 40 per of children getting the required pass rate and is well below the national average of 58% for five A-C grades. Now, we learn taxpayers’ money is ending up in the accounts of outside bodies whilst children’s lives and their long term prospects are ruined.  I feel both angered and saddened to say the least. I would wish to know, therefore, where the money has gone, who has received it and what for.

 “As the deputy leader of the council and as the local authority representative on the board of governors, Adrian Andrew has a responsibility to parents, pupils, local primary schools and the wider community to explain what is happening. Since the school was taken out of local authority control in 2009 the Grace Academy Trust has failed to meet the standards required of it and it’s now time we looked at the possibility of returning it to council control; rather than the present situation were it is only answerable to the Secretary of State in London.”