Whistle-blower alert over Sawtry college finances

Sawtry Community College. EMN-141126-130043009
Sawtry Community College. EMN-141126-130043009
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A government review is under way at a leading Peterborough college after a whistle blower revealed a number of serious financial irregularities.

The investigation at Sawtry Community College by the Education Finance Agency followed a snap Ofsted inspection which placed the college into special measures.

That inspection was also the result of complaints.

Those complaints were made to Ofsted, whose inspectors identified poor standards of leadership. The then principal, James Stewart, and governors were criticised.

Details of the alleged financial irregularities have not been disclosed but they are said to be serious.

As a result the college was ordered to draw up an action plan to ensure such irregularities could not happen again.

The college was also told that all future transactions had to be approved by the agency.

A letter from the agency to the college states: “We received serious whistle blowing allegations relating to financial irregularities and governance at Sawtry Community College in July.”

It states a review identified “significant financial irregularities together with the breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook.

The college’s acting principal, Sarah Wilson, said: “Concerns about the financial management of the college under the former principal were raised by the college leadership team in July this year.

“We have co-operated fully with the agency throughout its work.

“The review makes very clear the mistakes of the past and the need for change at the college.

“We have put in place a new leadership team that is determined to rectify those mistakes and deliver on our seven point improvement plan.”

She added: “We have a clear view of the college’s future.

“We know that there have been major mistakes in the past, but we are confident that we are addressing these and have the right team and the right policies in place.

“The college has commissioned a full transactional review to audit all the areas highlighted by the EFA.”

The results of the EFA review will be made public in due course.

Under the agency’s Financial Notice to Improve, the college must provide monthly progress reports.

Only when the college has convinced the agency that it conditions have been met will it lift the notice to improve.

However, while the financial review has been going on, the college has also been working to meet the demands of Ofsted.

Since the inspection, the college has changed many of the people in senior leadership positions.

Following a special measures monitoring inspection, Ofsted reported: “There have been wholesale changes in leadership and governance since the inspection, and a significant turnover in staff.

“The principal has left, the vice principal is on long-term absence and the deputy principal has stepped down. Sixteen teachers left at the end of the summer term. Half of the governors have resigned from the governing body, including the chair and vice chair.”