Finance-row head denies resigning

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Published: Thursday 25th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The head of a problem-hit school has denied he has resigned after it was criticised by a government body for irregular financial arrangements.

Peter Cantley said he was in discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) about his future as head of the Durham Free School, which had been issued with a financial notice to improve.

In a statement, he said: “I can confirm that I have been in discussions with the Department for Education for some time in relation to concerns which I raised with them over governance and financial management at The Durham Free School, and I remain in discussions with the DfE, and with the school itself.

“I very much hope that those discussions will further the interests of parents and pupils, but I have no further comment to make at this time.”

The chair of governors John Denning told the Newcastle-based Chronicle newspaper that deputy head Julian Eisner had been appointed acting head.

He told the newspaper: “Mr Eisner is a respected deputy head and the governors have great confidence in his ability to lead the school in the interim.”

But Mr Cantley said he had not quit and he was the person who raised concerns about finance and governance.

He said he still hoped to return to his post to make the improvements pupils and parents deserved.

The notice to improve was issued as a consequence of “the significant weaknesses in financial management and governance” at the school, which has only been open 15 months.

The agency demanded the school “prepare and implement an action plan to address the underlying weaknesses”.

Previously, Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for Durham City, had criticised the school after figures showed it had cost thetax payer £900,000 in its first term, almost £30,000 per pupil.

She said: “It is clear that Free School policy is not leading to good value for money for the taxpayer.

“The £900,000 could have been much better spent supporting existing schools in the area that are very much in need of additional resources.”

Mike McDonald, NUT regional secretary, said: “The free school programme has been ideologically driven by Michael Gove and unfortunately Nicky Morgan has not shown any sign of reversing the policy.

“I think all schools should be locally accountable but with free schools the headteacher is effectively the Secretary of State for Education for that school.

“It seems perverse to me and the NUT that it’s been allowed to continue.

“No better education has resulted from it and a lot of public money has been poured down the drain.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We have issued Durham Free School with a Financial Notice to Improve (FNtI) due to concerns about financial management and governance.

“The FNtI will be in place until we are satisfied that effective action has been taken to address our concerns.

“Academies and free schools 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.”

Published: Thursday 25th December 2014 by The News Editor

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