Academy federation outlines action plan after financial scandal

The Priory Federation of Academies has outlined its financial action plan moving forward after a damming report from the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

Last month, the EFA found a number of issues concerning former CEO Richard Gilliland’s spending and management of the school’s finances.

The report found Richard Gilliland used federation resources to buy personal and “inappropriate” items, including training for his son, personal tax advice and DVDs.

The items were bought on a federation credit card and then delivered to the academy address, while invoices for training his son appeared to be altered in an attempt to obscure the identification.

This led to the CEO’s resignation and the Federation working alongside the EFA to make changes.

As part of the changes the Federation, which comprises of Priory Academy LSST, Priory Witham Academy, Priory City of Lincoln Academy and Priory Ruskin Academy, had to outline an action plan.

The plan, which will be reviewed by trustees on May 23, must be completed by the end of the academic year to allow for a handover period.

The main areas the Federation will focus on are:

  • Membership governance: Determine the skill sets required for the governance of a large public organisation. Implement a recruitment and appointments programme accordingly;
  • Consider a handover period for any Trustees who may not seek reappointment;
  • Governance structure: Establish a structure capable of holding the Federation to account;
  • Ensure the structure makes the Federation fully compliant with all corporate responsibilities;
  • Federation: Ensure there are appropriate and sufficient functions at Federation level to support the Academies in the next stage of their development;
  • Philosophy: Examine our core values and how they are expressed;
  • Policies: Ensure the policies which required revision are being changed appropriately.

Terry Coffey, Chairman of The Priory Federation of Academies Trust, explained in a letter to parents “the hard work is far from over.”

He said: “There is much to be done by Trustees and senior Federation staff to restore your confidence in our ability to manage our financial affairs to the highest possible standards.”

In a letter to the Trust, the EFA’s Regional Director of Academies Martin Lamb said:

“The EFA regards this [the Trust’s document] as a comprehensive and full response to our investigation and addresses all the significant issues outlined in the Report with determination, openness and willingness to make changes quickly.

“We shall not require any further written response to the Investigation Report.

“We consider that the response provides the Trust with the basis for an action plan to ensure the future of the Trust and to continue to provide the education for some 4,500 pupils which continues to be our jointly agreed highest priority.

“We acknowledge that work is already in hand to stabilise the current position and develop policies and practices to prevent the Trust being in a similar position ever again.”