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DfE "suppressed" publication of report into controversial Bradford free school, claims local MP

An early day motion was tabled in Parliament yesterday claiming the Department for Education (DfE) had "suppressed" the publication of a report into a free school, which is now mired in controversy.

On Friday last week it emerged that the DfE was forced to report the King Science Academy in Bradford to the police over serious concerns around financial mismanagement at the school. 

An investigation led by the department found the academy had misspent more than £86,000 of taxpayers’ money, including £10,800 that was “supported by fabricated invoices for rent”.

And this week, two early day motions were tabled by Bradford West MP George Galloway, himself a controversial figure, one of which claimed the DfE had suppressed the publication of a report following its investigation into the school for five months, while demanding a fraud inquiry is carried out. 

It also called for prime minister David Cameron to show "regret" for his words of support towards the King Science Academy, after he personally endorsed the school by making an official visit on Budget Day back in March 2012.

A second motion raised concerns over the benefactors of free schools, who may be able to benefit financially from supporting such schools. 

The motion reads: “That this House… notes that a company of the Conservative vice-chairman Alan Lewis, who is a patron of the Kings Science Academy in Bradford, is being paid almost £6 million over 20 years to lease the land on which the academy was built with £10 million of public money; believes that such deals are not just against the public interest but involve a clear conflict of interest.”

The DfE published its report into the King Science Academy last Friday, despite department auditors completing their final report in May.

Concerns around the proper oversight of free schools have come to a head in recent weeks, with the Al-Madinah Free School in Derby coming under scrutiny after it was described as being “in chaos” by Ofsted two weeks ago, before being placed in special measures.  

And deputy prime minister Nick Clegg sparked a political spat with his coalition colleagues when he claimed free schools should be forced to hire qualified teachers and follow the national curriculum.

A statement issued by DfE officials on the King Science Academy said that it had “found serious failings in financial management” at the academy and admitted it had contacted the police over its concerns. 

“We informed the police who decided no further action was necessary,” a spokesperson said. “We required KSA to address these failings urgently. A plan is in place to recover funds and the school is undertaking its own investigation. Any necessary disciplinary action is a matter for the school.” 

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