Exclusive: Head teacher arrested in fraud probe at Bradford free school

THE HEAD teacher of a flagship free school has been arrested by police investigating allegations of fraud, the Yorkshire Post understands.

David Cameron meets head teacher Sajid Raza and children from Kings Science Academy, Bradford on a visit in 2012.

West Yorkshire Police announced this morning that a 41-year-old had been arrested in connection with a probe into the Kings Science Academy, in Bradford, which was launched last year.

Police have not named the man but the Yorkshire Post understands it is the school’s principal Sajid Raza.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The investigation was launched after the Department for Education (DfE) found last year that the school had submitted fabricated invoices to claim thousands of pounds of public money.

The allegations against the school were contained in an Internal Audit Investigation report by the DfE dated May of last year, but which was published in October after it was leaked to the media.

At the time the department issued a statement which said that the police had been informed and decided to take no action.

However a week later it emerged that no police investigation had actually taken place at the school because the case had only been treated as an information report.

The Government said that a mistake by Action Fraud - a national fraud reporting centre - meant that the case had been passed on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau as being for information. However once the matter became public the case was passed on to West Yorkshire Police which launched an investigation.

In November three men were interviewed under caution over the matter by West Yorkshire Police, who promised a “thorough and swift investigation”.

Detective Superintendent Lisa Griffin, Head of Crime for Bradford District, said today: “As part of West Yorkshire Police’s ongoing investigation into matters at Kings Science Academy, Bradford, a 41-year-old man has today been arrested at premises in Bradford and is currently being questioned in relation to suspected fraud offences.”

The free school was one of the first to open in Yorkshire in 2011 and was visited and praised by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.

The vice-chairman of the Conservative Party Alan Lewis is the school’s executive patron and the Kings Science Academy has been built on his company’s land in a deal worth almost £6m in rent over 20 years.

Lib Dem Bradford East MP David Ward welcomed today’s developments in the police investigation.

Mr Ward has raised a series of questions about the management of the academy and the role of Tory vice-chair Alan Lewis, the school’s executive patron. The school is built on land owned by Mr Lewis.

On Monday, in the Commons, he asked Education Secretary Michael Gove what steps his department was taking.

Mr Gove said he had to careful not the prejudice the police investigation

Mr Ward replied: “That is disappointing, because of course the head of a maintained school would have been on his bike long ago.”

Labour MP Kevin Brennan asked the Secretary of State: “Mr Lewis is not just a benefactor; he is a landlord who will receive £12 million in rent in years to come from the school, as well as a vice-chair of the Conservative Party and a major Tory donor.

“Is that anything to do with the fact that the Secretary of State has refused to take any action whatsoever against anyone since this scandal broke?”

Mr Gove replied: “It is important to place on the record the fact that Mr Lewis is receiving for the property an appropriately guaranteed market rent - less than he was receiving for it beforehand.”

The Secretary of State defended his department’s handling of the case and said: “The law must follow its course.”