Case for control of purse strings

5th September 2003 at 01:00
What's the connection between grant-maintained status and an outsize string bikini? Followers of the summer's most entertaining court case know the financial controls of the former allowed the purchase of the latter - plus up to pound;500,000 worth of holidays and fripperies, paid for out of the budget of St John Rigby school in London by its head, ex-nun Colleen McCabe.

Most GM schools were models of financial probity, and most heads are decent individuals who wouldn't buy an unnecessary ball of string, let alone a string bikini. Yet - unbelievably - McCabe deceived everyone for five years and survived an Ofsted inspection and two independent audits, while the Funding Agency for Schools seems to have been abolished before it could scrutinise the relevant years' accounts. It was only when the school was returned to its local authority that council auditors unravelled the string of deceit - an argument, surely, in favour of continuing local control of schools.

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