The Durand Academy Trust in south London is facing closure amid ‘serious concerns’ over its governance and financial management, ministers have warned.
Schools minister Lord Nash has issued the academy chain with a “pre-termination warning notice”, following a series of similar cautions about the way the trust is run.
The trust was established by Sir Greg Martin, the controversial headteacher who made headlines after it emerged he was earning nearly £400,000 a year. Sir Greg’s large income came from his basic salary, pension contributions and through the leisure centre that he operated on the school site.
He retired in August last year, but remained as chair of governors at the trust and as director of his private business, called GMG, which manages the gym, swimming pool and studio apartments that are still part of the South London school site.
The trust also established a satellite boarding school in West Sussex, which has been hit with its own problems after it claimed it could provide boarding for around £2,000 per pupil.
In March last year, the DAT was slapped with a “financial notice to improve”, but according to the Department for Education, the trust has “ignored” repeated warnings to address concerns.
In a statement this morning, Lord Nash said: “I have today issued Durand Academy Trust with a pre-termination warning notice. This is not a decision I have taken lightly given the trust’s commitment to providing an excellent education to its pupils, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds and difficult circumstances.
“However after repeatedly failing to address serious concerns about the school’s governance, the effective use of public money and its failure to comply with the standard rules all academy trusts must follow, we have taken this decision to safeguard the future education of Durand’s pupils. “
The trust now has the opportunity to respond to the issues raised in the notice, the minister added.
As part of its warning notice, the DfE has called for all of the following:
- Directors at Durand Academy Trust (DAT) who are also directors of its wider partner organisation, the Durand Education Trust (DET), should resign from one of these two posts.
- The acting executive headteacher Mark McLaughlin should either resign from his role as acting head or from any of his positions with the Durand Education Trust and any other company on which Sir Greg himself sits.
- The DET should repay the remaining £1.8 million of £2 million that was transferred to it from DAT back in 2013.
- Sir Greg resigns as chair of governors, and ceases to be a director/trustee of DAT and from any other position with DAT;
- That Sir Greg holds no future position as employee or trustee of the DAT .
The trust has until the August 1 to respond to the warning.
The Durand Academy Trust has been approached for comment.