Exclusive: Senior figure quits academy chain after failing to declare interest in linked company

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A SENIOR figure at Yorkshire’s biggest academy chain has resigned after an internal inquiry found that they failed to declare an interest in a company linked to the academy trust.

The School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) group said the senior employee, who has not been named, had left voluntarily.

It said the non declaration did not amount to criminal activity but had breached company policy and procedures.

The academy chain, which sponsors more than 40 schools, mainly in Yorkshire, had set up an inquiry following concerns about “declarations of interest at a senior level”. A spokesman said: “The inquiry has concluded that a senior employee did not make an appropriate declaration of interest in a company associated with SPTA between 2011 and 2013.”

The Yorkshire Post can also reveal that Leeds City Council had asked the SPTA to investigate a complaint about alleged financial irregularities at the academy chain’s founding school, Garforth Community College, before it became an academy in 2010.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, the council’s executive member responsible for children and families, said: “We take concerns regarding alleged financial irregularities very seriously, as all funds allocated for the education of children and young people must be used appropriately. As a result of concerns raised, we have looked at historic records for the academy and will now be asking the sponsors to investigate and notifying the Regional Schools Commissioner.”

The SPTA spokesman said that the concerns referred on by Leeds City Council were looked into as part of the wider SPTA inquiry.

An SPTA statement said: “School Partnership Trust Academies set up the inquiry in June, with the knowledge of the Department for Education and Education Funding Agency, in response to a series of concerns. The inquiry, conducted by independent legal experts, found concerns relating to other internal employment procedures were unfounded.”

SPTA’s chairman of the board Sean Cavan described the review as “a full and proper inquiry.” He added; “We have taken a firm stance. As a result of the findings, an employee has voluntarily resigned from their position within the company. The non declaration of interest by the employee did not amount to criminal activity but did breach company policy and procedures. These have been reviewed to further tighten procedures. Throughout the process, SPTA’s focus has firmly remained on its 46 academies and the young people in its charge.”

A statement on the SPTA website says the review had made a series of recommendations including putting in place “a transparent and robust process” to ensure that any, and all, declarations of pecuniary interest, or conflict of governance issues by its employees is reported and recorded. It also says directors and members of SPTA, and associated companies, should review their declaration of interests in respect of any potential conflict and make any necessary further declarations.