Academy faces finance probe

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DONCASTER Council has announced an investigation into payments made to an academy which was called in to help turn around a failing borough school.

The report has been commissioned because of concerns over lack of detail about how £540,000 - paid to Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield - was spent.

The money was for work carried out providing specialist support for what was then North Doncaster Technology College, in Adwick.

It included £30,000 simply identified on a spreadsheet as ‘payments to Outwood Grange’.

Outwood Academy was called in after the school had been listed as a failing school by Ofsted inspectors, and put in special measures in 2008.

The Wakefield based organisation has since become a sponsor of the Adwick school, which is now called Outwood Academy Adwick.

Concerns have also been raised that there was no tendering process for the contract awarded to Outwood for the 2008-09 academic year.

Doncaster Council’s Director of the Children and Young People’s Service, Chris Pratt, said: “We have commissioned our own internal audit review to look further at the processes and procedures used in our contract arrangements with Outwood Grange Consultancy.

“We expect a report to be published on this in July following approval from the council’s Audit Committee.”

Doncaster Council is the second authority to announce an internal inquiry into its relationship with Outwood Grange.

Wakefield Council has already carried out its own audit into its dealings with Outwood Grange’s spending between 2006 and 2009, the year it became an academy and moved out of local authority control.

The audit claimed there had been a “significant breakdown in appropriate standards of governance and accountability”.

It also made criticism of payments of £147,000 to the academy’s superhead, Michael Wilkins, in personal consultancy payments, on top of salary payments of £236,000.

Outward Grange has disputed some of the audit’s findings.

No-one at Outwood Grange was available to comment on the Doncaster audit.