Dispute over £4 million sale of Durand boarding academy

Accounts reveal DfE and the owners of the West Sussex site disagree about what should happen to proceeds of proposed sale

Martin George

The owners of Durand's former boarding site disagree with the ESFA over what should happen to the proceeds of its sale.

The proposed £4 million sale of a site that formed part of one of England’s most notorious academies might not benefit the school it used to belong to.

The news is the latest in a long line of controversies over Durand Academy, which have included concerns about conflicts of interest, payments to its founding headteacher and land ownership.

The academy was based on three sites: two in Lambeth, south London, and St Cuthman’s in West Sussex, which provided boarding to Year 10 and 11 pupils.

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One of the London sites, on Hackford Road, also includes accommodation and a private leisure centre.

The academy announced in August 2017 that it was closing its boarding provision, and a year later Durand was transferred to new sponsor, Dunraven Educational Trust, and renamed Van Gogh Primary.

All three sites were owned by Durand Education Trust, but the London sites that were used for education by the school were moved to Dunraven in September 2018.

Tes this week revealed that the Department for Education has issued a direction telling Durand Education Trust to return ownership of the leisure centre and accommodation to Lambeth Council by 1 January 2020, which the trust is opposing.

The latest dispute surrounds the St Cuthman’s site, which is now on sale with a guide price of £4 million.

According to Durand Education Trust’s financial accounts, published this week, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the trust disagree about what should happen to money raised from the sale.

The accounts say: “The ESFA consider the funds from the proposed sale of the property at St Cuthman’s should be held on trust for the benefit of the primary school on the Hackford Road site, which the trustees dispute.”

The Durand Education Trust’s legal objectives were previously to “advance education for the public benefit, in particular the education of the pupils attending what was previously known as the Durand Academy Trust”.

However, in May it changed its articles of association so that its objectives were widened to “advance education for the public benefit and in particular the education of young persons under the age of 30 who are residing in, or who have resided within the London borough of Lambeth”.

The DfE told Tes that the freehold of the land in West Sussex is not subject to the education secretary’s power of direction under the Academies Act 2010, and that it has no further information on the sale.

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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