New research published by the Education Committee highlights the potential for conflicts of interest to arise in the relationship between academies and sponsors.
Launching the research, which looks at recent conflicts of interest in academy sponsorship arrangements as background for an Education Committee inquiry into academies and free schools, Graham Stuart, Chair of Education Committee, said:
“Academy sponsors can bring much needed skills to schools and help raise standards. This important research has identified, however, a number of loopholes in the current arrangements that could work against the best interests of academies and their students.
We will question the new Secretary of State when she gives evidence to the inquiry next month and ask what will be done to tackle these concerns. The public need to be sure that academy sponsors act only in the interest of their schools and never for other purposes.”
The research was commissioned from Professor Toby Greany and Jean Scott of the Institute of Education, University of London. It examines the potential for conflicts of interest to arise in the relationship between academies and sponsors under the current sponsorship model.
The research identifies four broad areas where real or perceived conflicts of interest may occur for Academy Trusts under current arrangements:
- Connected (or related) party transactions. For example, where an individual on the board of a Trust benefits personally or via their companies.
- The provision of paid for services. For example, where the sponsor supplies a school improvement curriculum or back office service to a trust under a license that prevents the Trust from changing supplier (a form of tie-in currently permitted for provision of such services only ‘at cost’* and not for profit.)
- Less tangible conflicts that do not (directly) involve money: For example, inappropriate control exerted in the Trojan Horse schools and an FE College deciding (in its own interest) to close the 6th form at a local school where it is the sponsor.
- Conflicts that arise in the wider system: For example where a contracted Department for Education (DfE) Academy Broker also works for an academy Trust that they invite to pitch for a new school.