“The former head of a controversial academy is being paid an £850,000 severance package out of proceeds from a private leisure centre run on the school grounds, MPs have heard.
Details of the payment to Sir Greg Martin, the former head of the Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London, emerged on Monday during a hearing of the Commons public accounts committee, which is investigating academy accounts and performance.
It is the latest development in a long-running saga involving Martin, who was knighted for services to education and was once a favourite of Tory ministers, before falling out of favour as concerns grew about financial management and governance at the school.
Durand Academy has since been transferred to a new sponsor and has been renamed the Van Gogh primary school, but the Durand Education Trust (DET) retained ownership of the private leisure centre developed on the site, as well as two accommodation blocks, which originally generated additional income for the school.
John Wentworth, a DET trustee, told MPs the assets – the leisure centre and accommodation – were still generating £400,000 a year but “most” of the money was going towards Martin’s severance pay rather than going towards’ children’s education.
“At the moment, we have a considerable liability to the previous executive headteacher of Durand Academy,” Wentworth told MPs, adding that the severance figure had been “considerably higher” but had been reduced after negotiations between Martin and the Charity Commission.
Wentworth told MPs there were ongoing discussions between the DET and the Education and Skills Funding Agency about what would happen to the leisure centre and accommodation blocks. He said if the DET retained control they would be used in line with its charitable objectives “to support the wider education objectives of children in Lambeth and to support the children at the Van Gogh primary school”.
The hearing offered some fascinating insights into the complexities of transferring schools from one trust to another. The Dunraven Educational Trust, which finally took over Durand, was given just 48 hours to make a decision after the Harris Federation pulled out, though Harris helpfully shared all the information gathered during its investigations. Nevertheless, committee chair Meg Hillier described it as “a 48-hour fire sale”.
The hearing was also told about troubles at Bright Tribe, which ran 10 schools in the north and east of England which are now being rebrokered. The academies troubleshooter, Angela Barry, who was brought as interim chief executive, refused to give details about ongoing investigations but apologised for past failings.”