Exclusive: Superhead school ‘erred’ in charity returns

Michael Wilkins
Michael Wilkins
Have your say

A SCHOOL run by a controversial superhead paid £315,000 into its charity fund – but told the Charity Commission its income was just £41, the Yorkshire Post can reveal today.

Outwood Grange, in Wakefield, admitted it made an “error” by not accounting for hundreds of thousands of pounds when it filed returns with the charities’ regulator. It said the misreporting was “the result of a genuine misunderstanding rather than any impropriety or concealment”.

The annual return sent to the Charity Commission for 2007/08 said the income received by the Outwood Grange School Fund was £41, when the actual amount was £315,859.

The school said it would set the record straight when filing the latest set of accounts but these are now 256 days overdue with the Charity Commission.

It can also be revealed that £91,689 of the amount paid into the charity’s account in 2007/08 was then paid on to the personal consultancy of superhead Michael Wilkins, whose income has rocketed since Outwood Grange embarked on a series of lucrative contracts to provide support to struggling schools through the National Leaders of Education (NLE) programme.

Ed Balls, local Labour MP for Morley and Outwood, said his experience of the school had been positive but warned: “Any inaccurate declarations to the Charity Commission and accounting irregularities would be extremely serious matters and must be investigated and dealt with appropriately and thoroughly by the academy’s governing body.”

Education Secretary Michael Gove, who has publicly championed Mr Wilkins as an outstanding schools leader, declined to comment.

The charity’s stated aims are the advancement of the education of Outwood Grange students by providing facilities and equipment not normally provided by the council by way of grants to individuals or organisations.

But when Mr Wilkins, a designated NLE, and Outwood Grange set up an agreement to provide support to Harrogate High School in return for £750,000 in 2007, the school used the charity account as a normal business account.

In addition to the £91,689 to Mr Wilkins’s personal consultancy, a further £196,032 from the charity account was spent on reimbursing the college budget for staff costs, payments to outside consultants, hotels, catering, travel and other miscellaneous expenses. The school said £28,138 from the Harrogate money remains in the charity fund.

• More details and background report in Saturday’s Yorkshire Post