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School on hold until Edutrust investigated

Plans to open an academy have been thrown into doubt following allegations of financial mismanagement by the proposed sponsor.

Richmond Council has announced it is delaying an Edutrust proposal until the Department for Children, Schools and Families has completed an inquiry into the charity's financial arrangements.

It was revealed last year that Edutrust would be investigated after Ian Comfort, its former chief executive, voiced concerns about its financing and governance. Edutrust denies any wrongdoing.

This week, the DCSF said that its inquiry had been delayed by at least six months until an employment tribunal being brought by Mr Comfort has been completed.

Despite the delay, it said it expected the nine academy projects that Edutrust is developing to progress as normal.

But Richmond Council said it was not happy to proceed with an Edutrust school in Sheen, west London. It was originally due to open in September.

"The proposal has been delayed pending the outcome of the DCSF investigation into claims of financial mismanagement on the part of Edutrust," a council spokesman said.

Edutrust, set-up by the Muslim peer Lord Bhatia, said it had not been informed of Richmond's decision. "We understood that the academy would progress as planned towards an opening date this year," a spokesman said. "We are confident that the other academies we are developing will open as scheduled."

The delay is another blow to academies, which have come in for considerable criticism in recent weeks. At the Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle staff threatened strike action over proposals for a radical overhaul of the curriculum and staff pay.

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