THE HEAD TEACHER of a Bradford free school has been arrested over more allegations of fraud, police revealed tonight.
Sajid Raza, the principal at the Kings Science Academy, had been arrested in January following allegations that the school submitted fabricated invoices to claim just over £10,000 of public money from the Department for Education (DfE).
West Yorkshire Police have revealed that he has answered his bail regarding these matters and has also been arrested in relation to further allegations of fraud. He has been bailed pending further enquiries.
A statement from the police added: “All aspects of the schools finance and governance that relate to these potential offiences are being thoroughly investigated.”
This evening, before news of his new arrest broke, a demonstration was held in support of Mr Raza outside the school.
Safina Najeeb told The Yorkshire Post it had been organised by concerned parents. She said: “The character and ethos of the school is being eroded. Kings is being marketed as a failing school to discredit Mr Raza and his original team, and to prevent him from ever being able to return as head.”
He has been suspended since his original arrest in January.
The school’s chairman of governors John Bowers said: “The founding principal of the academy Sajid Raza currently remains suspended from his post as a result of the police investigation.
“Two issues will determine Mr Raza’s future in the academy: The completion of the police investigation and an on-going internal review into his conduct. The school has confirmed to the Education Funding Agency that the steps we have taken to strengthen internal controls are taking effect and the EFA has acknowledged that the schools financial management arrangements are improving.”
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has tonight highlighted the arrest and events at the school as “a sign of the fundamental failings in David Cameron’s free schools policy.”
The Kings Science Academy was one of the first of the Government’s flagship free schools to open in 2011.
It was visited and praised by the Prime Minister during its first year.
The school has been at the centre of a financial scandal since it emerged in October, last year, that a DfE audit investigation report alleged that the school had submitted fabricated invoices of just over £10,000 to claim public money before it opened.
There has been controversy over the Government’s failure to ensure there was a police investigation until after the allegations against the school were leaked.
When the DfE attempted to report the matter, with a phonecall made in April last year, it was wrongly recorded by Action Fraud - a national call centre which deals with reports of financial crimes. Action Fraud classified the matter as being an information report rather than a crime report before passing it on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
When the allegations against the school became public the DfE issued a statement saying that it had “informed the police who decided no further action was necessary.”
However it then emerged that in fact the police had not looked at the matter for criminal investigation because it had been wrongly recorded as an information report. Action Fraud are said to have apologised to the DfE for the mistake.
The Yorkshire Post has since revealed that when the DfE asked for an update about the case, in September of last year, it was told at that point - six weeks before the matter was in the public domain - that Action Fraud had dealt with it as an information report.
An email, obtained from the DfE under the freedom of information act, shows that the department were told by Action Fraud that the case would need to be reported as a potential crime in order for there to be a criminal investigation. Bradford MP David Ward and Labour’s shadow education minister Kevin Brennan have both questioned why the DfE did not seek to rectify this in September last year when they were told the matter had only been dealt with as an information report.
Earlier this year The Yorkshire Post also revealed that the NFIB - run by City of London Police - had discovered that the matter had been wrongly classified as being an information report. However when this error came to light, in June last year, it did not then pass it on to West Yorkshire Police.