THE secondary school scammed for more than £1m has been served with a financial notice to improve by the Department for Education.
Whitehall chiefs have written to the headteacher of St Aldhelm’s Academy in Poole, Cheryl Heron, over the school’s ‘weak financial position’.
The academy must now submit a detailed action plan outlining how it will improve its finances.
And the DfE says the current sponsorship arrangements at the school are not working and it wants the sponsors – Bournemouth University and the Diocese of Salisbury – to step down. DfE officials have made it a requirement that the school trust passes a resolution to make this happen.
The DfE says it has acted because of the school’s need to obtain deficit funding and advances from the department and ‘significant weaknesses’ in internal financial control.
The move is not directly linked to the fraud which saw £1.1m withdrawn from a school account after a member of staff gave away access codes to criminals posing as bank officials in an email. As the Daily Echo revealed on Monday, the money was due to be paid to developers Kier.
The firm carried out a £9.8m redevelopment of the school last year.
The school was just one of a number of organisations nationally that has been defrauded.
The cash is currently being repaid to the Education Funding Agency, an arm of the DfE, at the rate of £75,000 a month.
The school’s plan to get its house in order will be reviewed by the EFA next month. It must also clear transactions with the EFA.
A DfE spokesman said: “St Aldhelm’s Academy has been issued with a financial notice to improve following concerns over their financial management and governance arrangements.
“Should they fail to meet the conditions further intervention procedures will be considered.
“Academies operate under a strict system of oversight and accountability – more robust than in council-run schools – which means any issues are identified and that we can take swift action.”
The £1m fraud, which happened in July last year, is still under investigation by a number of agencies, including Dorset Police and the Met.
'School is getting there' says governor
Chairman of governors at St Aldhelm’s, Tony Moore, said the school has brought in fresh expertise, new procedures and a new finance director to deal with the issues.
“It is all being dealt with and we are on the right road,” he said.
“We have just had a successful audit and that should give people confidence.
“The EFA obviously wants to be reassured that public money is being spent properly. The school is getting there.”
Mr Moore said there was general agreement that the current sponsorship model is ‘not working’ even though both Bournemouth University and the Diocese of Salisbury had made a significant contribution to St Aldhelm’s.
A new arrangement linking the school with a number of other academies would be better, he added.