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Head arrested in connection with fraud investigation at King Science Academy

The head of a free school in Bradford has been arrested as part of an ongoing police probe into alleged fraud.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed in a statement today that a 41-year-old man, reported to be King Science Academy principal Sajid Raza, was arrested and later released on bail in connection with its investigation, launched in autumn last year.

The police were called in to the free school after a government investigation found that it had produced fabricated invoices to claim for thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash.

In a report released by the Department for Education last year, it was revealed that nearly £60,000 of a government grant was spent without any evidence of what it was used for, including more than £10,000 that was “supported by fabricated invoices for rent”.

Detective Superintendent Lisa Griffin, head of crime for Bradford District, said: “As part of West Yorkshire Police's ongoing investigation into matters at Kings Science Academy, Bradford, a 41-year-old man has today been arrested at premises in Bradford and is currently being questioned in relation to suspected fraud offences.”

A further statement issued today said that the man had been released on bail pending “further enquiries”.

The arrest will heap further embarrassment on to the government’s flagship school policy, particularly as the school was personally endorsed by Prime Minister David Cameron when he made an official visit on budget day back in May 2012.

King Science is one of three high-profile free schools to be at the centre of a controversy, with the Discovery New School in West Sussex being ordered to shut due to poor standards and the future of the Al Madinah Free School in Derby in doubt following two scathing Ofsted inspections.

In the Commons this week, education secretary Michael Gove insisted that he had taken advice from officials before approving the creation of the three free schools now under scrutiny.

Mr Gove defended the right for a minister to make their own decisions, but made it clear that in all three free-school applications he followed guidance from his officials.

“The advice from officials was to open the Discovery school. It was also the case it was the advice of officials to back Kings Science Academy and to back Al-Madinah school,” Mr Gove said.

“In all three examples we took the advice of officials – but let me make it clear: it is entirely appropriate for ministers to overrule officials at any given point.

“Officials advise and ministers decide. But in these three cases we took the advice of officials and appropriate safeguards were in place.”

The King Science Academy opened in 2011 as one of the country’s first free schools.

A DfE spokesperson said the department acted "as soon as it received allegations of wrongdoing" at Kings Science Academy.

"We formally investigated and referred the case to Action Fraud. This resulted in a police investigation which is ongoing. Separately we are recovering appropriate funds.

"All free schools are held to rigorous account. The vast majority are performing well with three-quarters rated good or outstanding. But where there is failure we will not hesitate to intervene,” the spokesperson added.

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