Exclusive: DfE wants Harris to take over Durand Academy

Department urges controversial academy to work with preferred sponsor to ensure a smooth handover in June 2018

Martin George

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One of England’s most controversial schools is set to be taken over by one of the country’s most highly-praised academy trusts, Tes can reveal.

The Department for Education wants the Harris Federation to take over Durand Academy in south London, when the funding agreement of Durand Academy Trust is terminated in June 2018.

Durand has been the subject of intense scrutiny over its complex governance arrangements – and revelations that then-headteacher Sir Greg Martin earned almost £400,000 in a year, including £161,000 from a private leisure centre operating on the school’s site.

In June this year, the DfE gave the trust one year’s notice that its funding agreement would be ended and the school would be transferred to a new sponsor, because of breaches to its funding agreement and its refusal to comply with requirements from the DfE.

The following month, the headteacher board for South East England and South London considered the future of Durand, with discussions focussing on “governance and performance”.

Durand escalation

However, the decision about the school's future was escalated to Lord Nash, who was an education minister at the time.

Now, Tes understands from the DfE that the Harris Federation is the preferred sponsor.

Durand Academy Trust has been told about the decision, but staff at the school have yet to be informed, according to the DfE.

The school was on course to be put in special measures following an Ofsted inspection in November and December 2016, but the report was quashed by the High Court this summer.

Handover arrangements

Harris currently sponsors 44 schools in the London area – and is regularly praised by ministers for its performance.

It is led by Sir Dan Moynihan, whose £420-425,000 salary in 2015-16 made him the highest paid academy leader in the country.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ministers have considered the options for the preferred new trust for Durand Academy when the existing trust’s funding agreement ends in June 2018 and a decision will be communicated in due course.

“When the termination of funding was announced we made clear that handover arrangements would be made before that date to ensure minimum disruption for pupils and parents and we will encourage the Durand Academy Trust to work with the preferred new trust to achieve a smooth transition.”

The Harris Federation has been contacted for comment.

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