School fees

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WHEN coalition Ministers talked about bringing the culture of enterprise into education, it is questionable whether they had in mind the figures set out in the Yorkshire Post today.

The payments of more than £1m for the services of Michael Wilkins, a “super-head” working at six secondary schools in the region, raise serious questions about the National Leaders in Education scheme (NLE) and the way it is funded. Under this programme, Mr Wilkins took on a series of roles helping struggling schools.

Mr Wilkins, who has a basic salary of £182,000 as principal at the Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield, is an experienced professional and it is right that people with his track record of success should be deployed as widely as possible to improve the life chances of all pupils.

What is a concern, however, is that nobody appears to want to take responsibility for how this system should work and how it is paid for. Outwood Grange and a private company set up within it have received more than £3m and Mr Wilkins’s services alone have cost the taxpayer more than £1m in salary and service payments to his school from councils elsewhere over four years.

At a time when public spending is under such close scrutiny, it seems incredible that neither the Government, nor the national body which oversees the school improvement programme, wants to take responsibility for how much money is changing hands.

The questions do not stop there. Wakefield Council has also launched its own audit into how the head teacher of one of its own schools was able to oversee the leadership of five secondaries elsewhere.

The row over the financing of Outwood Grange’s role as a support school should not distract from the success its work has achieved. However, it is equally important that there is openness and transparency over the way this important public service is run.