A POOLE secondary school has lost more than £1million after falling victim to a huge fraud.
St Aldhelm’s Academy was targeted in a scam believed to have been part of wider organised crime linked to eastern Europe.
The Daily Echo understands that the fraudsters, posing as bank staff in an email, tricked school finance chiefs into passing on codes relating to the school’s account.
They then withdrew £1.1m, which was part of the money for the school’s recent £9.8m rebuilding programme was carried out by developers Kier.
It is understood that the money came from the Education Funding Agency, an arm of the Department of Education and that Whitehall demanding it back at the rate of around £75,000 a month.
A source close to the school branded the fraud “a disaster”.
Police are still investigating the fraud, which was perpetrated last summer.
Officers from Dorset have been involved with national crime agencies and other forces, including the Met and Action Fraud, as part of a wider enquiry.
Other institutions in the UK have also been targeted.
It is another blow to the school, which posted the worst GCSE results in the country in 2012.
In a statement, headteacher Cheryl Heron said: “St Aldhelm’s was subject to an external fraud in July last year.
“The academy acted swiftly, referred the matter immediately to the police and the case is still being investigated.
“The fraud has not impacted on the day-to-day running of the academy or our recent building work, which was completed on schedule.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further while police investigations are ongoing.”
Bournemouth West MP, Conor Burns, who has worked closely with the school, told the Daily Echo: “This appalling fraud is a very sad and serious event for the school.
“I have been aware of it for some time and working with ministers to try to support the school as much as possible.
“The key priority for me and them is to ensure that as the school seeks to recover from this blow and that the focus remains firmly on giving the young people who learn there the best possible start in life.
“Having worked very closely with the school and knowing how involved ministers and senior officials are, I am confident that we will soon have positive developments for St Aldhelm’s.”
Kier declined to comment.
A Department for Education spokesperson added: “St Aldhelm’s has been the victim of a sophisticated serious fraud by a third party.
“The matter was immediately referred to the police and Action Fraud by the academy trust and to the EFA. The matter continues to be investigated by the police.”
- WHEN the school re- launched as St Aldhelm’s in 2010, it was announced that it would embark upon a major rebuilding programme.
Part of that was a new £9.8million building, the topping-out ceremony for which was held in May 2013.
Other buildings were also refurbished and the school said that it planned to hold an official opening a year later, in May this year.
THE school, formerly known as Rossmore Community College and relaunched as Poole’s first academy in 2010, is a Church of England Academy and has 504 students aged 11-19.
Its sponsors are Bournemouth University and the Diocese of Salisbury.
Academies are state-maintained schools directly funded by central government and independent of their local education authority.
They are self governing.