Published: 12:00, 07 February 2018
Jobs are on the line at Deal’s new multi-million pound secondary school after revelations of financial mismanagement.
SchoolsCompany, the trust that oversees Goodwin Academy, has this week apologised to its pupils and parents after admitting “unacceptable failures of financial management”.
As a result chief executive Elias Achilleos has been replaced by an interim, Angela Barry, and a consultation on staffing, offering employees voluntary redundancy, began on Monday.
A spokesman for SchoolsCompany Trust said: “Academic standards, leadership, teaching, safeguarding and behaviour at the Goodwin Academy are improving, and the school is increasingly popular with parents.
“It is very well led by the principal Simon Smith. However, there have been unacceptable failures of financial management by the Trust that oversees Goodwin Academy, and we apologise to our students and their parents for this.”
The school, formerly Castle Community College, became a high performing academy in 2010, meaning it had autonomy over its own finances. It amalgamated with Walmer Science College in 2013.
Just six months later, in April 2014, Ofsted placed the school into special measures, the standards body’s worst grading.
The latest twist is a result of a number of failings since 2016 such as not providing accurate and robust budget forecasts, or meeting the conditions of grant funding.
SchoolsCompany was issued with a Financial Notice To Improve (FNTI) by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in July 2017.
The actions set out in the notice were not put in place to ensure a sufficiently swift improvement, resulting in the appointment of a new chief executive Ms Barry, formerly of Woodland Academy Trust.
Billed by the trust as a highly experienced multi-academy trust leader with a track record of running successful, well-managed schools in Kent, Angela Barry has already identified a number of actions that will resolve the concerns at trust-level issues and is working closely with the relevant groups to achieve them.
A spokesman said: “The actions include publishing a consultation on staffing at the academy, which will first be a voluntary redundancy scheme.
“This follows discussions with staff and unions, and after a whole school review of budgets, curriculum and the deployment of staff.
“This restructure will enable the school to be a financially sustainable organisation while ensuring there is no impact on the high quality of teaching that students currently receive and will receive in the future.
“At the same time, we are proposing to increase the number of students joining in Year 7 on a temporary basis, given the high level of interest from parents for places. This will mitigate any funding shortfall and will support the community with the increasing demand on places.”
The changes will also affect SchoolsCompany’s three other schools, which are alternative provision settings, meaning for children who can’t attend mainstream schools. They are Central Devon Academy in Exeter, North Devon Academy in Barnstaple, and South and West Devon Academy in Dartington.
Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke branded the failings as “unacceptable”.
He said: “I have recently met with the Education Minister Lord Agnew and the Kent Schools Commissioner expressing my concerns about the school’s financial situation and calling for action to make sure that the education of the students comes first.
“I am now seeking an urgent meeting with the Trust’s interim chief executive to seek assurances that everything is being done to put things right as soon as possible.”
He praised the “hardworking” staff at Goodwin Academy who have driven the school forward over the past few years.
“We must not forget how far the school has come over the past few years. We fought a long and hard battle to deliver the state of the art new school building - with £25 million invested.
“Now there is a huge demand for places in Year 7.
“Goodwin Academy really is a school transformed - and we must keep fighting to ensure we can build on its success so far.”