OFSTED has been drawn into the row over a scandal hit free school facing fraud allegations as an MP has demanded to know why a Government probe into financial irregularities there was not mentioned in an inspection report.
MP David Ward has criticised Ofsted for not mentioning the investigation into the Kings Science Academy, in Bradford, despite the education watchdog being aware of it when it inspected the school.
The free school has been in the spotlight since a leaked report revealed that the Department for Education (DfE) had found it had submitted fabricated invoices to the Government to claim just over £10,000 in public money.
The DfE published a redacted version of the report, after it was leaked, along with a statement saying that police had decided to take no further action.
It then emerged that a mistake in the way the case had been recorded by Action Fraud – the UK’s national fraud reporting centre – was being blamed for the matter being passed to police for information rather than as a potential crime. The DfE had reported the matter with a phonecall to Action Fraud on April 25. Since the redacted report was published the matter has been passed onto West Yorkshire Police which is investigating.
Now David Ward the Bradford East MP, is asking questions of Ofsted as to why its inspection report from earlier this year did not mention the DfE’s investigation into the school’s finances.
He wrote to Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools, earlier this month asking if Ofsted had been aware of the investigation and if so why it had not been mentioned in its report. A reply from the Ofsted chief this week confirmed it was aware of an investigation being carried out by the Education Funding Agency.
Sir Michael wrote: “As the Education Funding Agency was investigating alleged financial irregularities, the Ofsted inspection team did not pursue this specific line of enquiry. However during both the inspection in February 2013 and at the subsequent monitoring inspection in April inspectors did evaluate how effectively the governors challenge and hold senior leaders to account.”
The Ofsted report into the school found it requires improvement.
Mr Ward said: “I’m shocked and saddened that Ofsted have admitted that they were aware of the financial irregularities at the Kings Science Academy but did nothing to raise financial competence as a concern in their report of the school. Ofsted have a duty to independently report on the conditions of a school so that parents can have an informed choice about which schools to send their children to.”
An Ofsted spokesman said: “We judged that Kings Science Academy required improvement when we inspected it earlier this year and found the governance to be weak. At that point, we were aware that the Education Funding Agency was looking into allegations of financial irregularities. The school has received one monitoring visit and a further monitoring visit is already planned as part of Ofsted’s commitment to working with schools that are not yet good.”
Meanwhile Education Secretary Michael Gove has answered detailed questions on the row surrounding the Kings Science Academy for the first time.
He has faced a raft of written questions over the fiasco which saw a five-month delay to police investigations into the Kings Science Academy in Bradford.
In replies to two MPs, Mr Gove said last week that Action Fraud had notified the DfE that the case had been wrongly classified as an information report on November 1.
In a separate response by the Home Office, it has also emerged that a recording of the telephone call by the DfE to Action Fraud when the matter was first reported in April does exist.
Home Office minister James Brokenshire said the National Fraud Authority had listened to a recording of the call and confirmed that an administrative error led to the report being classified as an information report and not a crime report.