Pupils were left 'unsupported' at Brent primary

3rd August 2012 at 01:00
Findings revealed in probe of claims of SEN funding misuse

A school at the centre of allegations that it misused special educational needs (SEN) funding failed to properly support its pupils and left them without qualified teachers, investigators have revealed.

Officials from Brent Council - whose schools have been hit by a series of allegations of "financial irregularities" - also suggested that teaching assistants were on the payroll at Kensal Rise Primary, northwest London, but may not have been "present at work". Their probe was prompted by SEN funding allegations made by a former member of staff, dating back to 2010, which the council insists are "totally unfounded".

But the council's finance director, Clive Heaphy, now admits that his investigators did not interview school staff suggested by whistle-blowers, even though they would "most likely" have confirmed allegations that pupils were "unsupported".

Other "management issues" were identified at Kensal Rise by investigators. However, Brent said it will never release full details because former head Joyce Page resigned earlier this year before any decision could be taken over whether to discipline her. The authority cited "alleged breaches of financial regulation" when it originally suspended Ms Page and took control of the primary's budget in February. But this week a spokeswoman would not confirm that the issues were financial in nature. She said that revealing what had been uncovered would be inappropriate because it "would prejudice against the individual (Ms Page)".

Paul Jayson, a former teaching assistant who made the original allegations, said: "There is no excuse for not revealing this information. When public money is involved anything less than total transparency is unacceptable."

Kensal Rise is one of at least five recent cases of alleged serious financial mismanagement in Brent schools. Sir Alan Davies, the former "superhead" of Copland Community School in Wembley, is due to appear in court in October with his former chair and deputy chair of governors and three other former staff in connection with an alleged #163;2.7 million fraud.

New details of the investigation into Kensal Rise Primary are revealed in a letter from Mr Heaphy to Mr Jayson. It said "no issues warranting further investigation" were found regarding support for pupils with SEN statements, but added that "there were occasions where no qualified teacher was present in a class or that children did not have the exact support as determined by their statements". An allegation that non-existent "ghost" support staff were paid is refuted. But the letter continued: "Being on the payroll and being present at work are two different things and it is possible that due to the management issues identified at the school there may have been poor management and allocation of resources."

A Brent Council spokeswoman said that the "management issues" identified at Kensal Rise had been resolved. "It is a well functioning school," she added.

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