MICHAEL Gove has refused to say whether the head of a scandal-hit free school facing fraud allegations should have been suspended while a police investigation takes place.
Bradford MP David Ward questioned the Education Secretary over the Kings Science Academy in the city which is being investigated by West Yorkshire Police after a Government audit report found it had submitted fabricated invoices.
Mr Ward told the Education Secretary during a select committee hearing yesterday that the head teacher would have been suspended had this happened at any other state maintained school.
Mr Gove refused to answer the question saying he did not want to comment about individuals.
He did concede, however, that “things had gone wrong” at the Kings Science Academy and that there were people “who at the very least had made mistakes”.
Mr Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East said: “You mention the Kings Science Academy and while on that subject can I ask, when there has been an audit report, an EFA (Education Funding Agency) report and an internal audit investigation team report showing widespread financial mismanagement, irregularity and fraud do you think it’s right that the principal of this college should still be in place?”
Mr Gove replied that he did want to comment on individuals “while there was one or two matters to be resolved.”
The Kings Science Academy’s principal is Sajid Raza. The secondary school did not respond to the Yorkshire Post’s request for a comment yesterday.
Mr Gove was also asked yesterday whether the academy and two other controversial free schools: Al Madinah School in Derby and the Discovery New School – a primary free school in Crawley which is now being closed down – had been recommended for opening by civil servants.
Labour MP Alex Cunningham asked whether any of the three schools were among the 17 per cent of low-scoring free school applications which had been approved by ministers – a figure revealed by a National Audit Office report into the free school programme last week.
Mr Gove said he would write to the committee with more information about the application process in each case because of the “legitimate public interest” in these three schools.
The Government’s handling of the Kings Science Academy has caused major controversy after it emerged there had been a five-month delay in police investigating the DfE’s findings at the school. This was because when the DfE reported the matter with a phonecall to Action Fraud – a national fraud reporting centre – the matter was wrongly recorded as being for information only before it was passed to the police.
The Yorkshire Post has obtained documents which show the DfE was told in September by Action Fraud the matter had not been investigated by police and more information was needed. The DfE later claimed in October, when its own investigation report was leaked and the allegations about the academy became public, that police had been informed and decided not to take action. The delay in a police investigation has been blamed on an administrative error by Action Fraud.