Thursday 16 June 2011

Tidemill Parents Question Lack of Open Accounting

Press release 16th June 2011: Parents Demand Open Accounting

Following an urgent request from concerned parents in her constituency,
Joan Ruddock Labour MP for Lewisham, Deptford has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, asking him to delay approval of any change in Tidemill School's status, pending independent scrutiny by the LEA of the school's existing arrangements for managing its finances. The school's accounts were last audited in early 2009.

The year-long
Deptford Says No campaign was started by parents of children attending the primary school in Deptford, South London, in response to 'SuperHead" Mark Elms' plans to turn the school into an academy. Last year, they succeeded in obtaining an extension to the consultation period and uncovered a significant miscalculation in the financial figures upon which the original proposal was based; however, a reworked application was recently approved by the school's governors and now awaits Gove's consent to proceed.
A spokesperson for Deptford Says No explained that the campaign has been struggling to achieve the sort of transparency and clarity about the background to the move to which she felt parents and the wider community were entitled. When information was not forthcoming directly from the school, the campaign enlisted the help of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner in order to gain access to the minuted records of the school's Board of Governors and Finance Committee meetings. In their letter to Joan Ruddock, they report that, on the basis of the documentation so far provided:

There would appear to be no audit trail of the decision to award Mark Elms substantial bonuses in 2009 and 2010. Given the increased budgetary autonomy enjoyed by academies, [...] there is significant cause for concern that the current arrangements for the school's governance may not be fit for purpose.

In fact the school's Chair of Governors, Keith Geary, has recently informed the FOI that the decisions in question were taken by a select group of governors and not minuted.

One parent commented:
Although there has been a consultation process, I don't think that our views have been properly listened to. A lot of concerns we have, as parents have still not been addressed. We are struggling to get the answers we need, especially in respect of the money involved. Tidemill is an outstanding school already, with a great mix of kids from all parts of the local community, so who exactly is going to benefit if it becomes an academy? Whose interests are being served here? It's a big step, and as far as I can see, once it's happened it will be irreversible.

The campaign can be contacted via the website:

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