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West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM
Published: 4 December 2009

Teachers’ union calls on flagship school sponsors to stump up cash

TWO flagship academies are still owed more than £1million promised to them by their private sponsors to pay for building work almost four years after they were handed control of the schools.
New government figures reveal Paddington Academy is owed more than half of the £1.5million it was pledged in 2006 by the United Learning Trust (ULT), while Westminster Academy is waiting for £300,000 from the trust set up by its millionaire sponsor Naim Dangoor.
The revelation has been met with astonishment by the main teaching union, who have questioned the suitability of private sponsors to run the schools.
Jeff Bates, secretary of Westminster National Union of Teachers, said it was a “disgrace” that the money had not been paid, claiming it was proof the academies project was about “privatisation at any price”. He called on the sponsors to stump up the cash and meet their pledges.
ULT, a Christian charity that runs 17 academies across the country, owes £858,000 from the £1.5 million it committed for building works as part of the contract it signed which gave it control of the curriculum, staffing and admissions when Paddington Academy was created out of the failing North Westminster Community School.
Its first year at the helm was dogged by controversy when the headteacher quit the school after a “year
of lost education”, because the £30million building was not ready on time and pupils were packed into cabins for lessons.
ULT has defended the shortfall, saying it still has four years to come up with the money under an agreement forged between the school, itself and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The government recently banned ULT from sponsoring any new academies until it raised standards across its current schools.
The academy funding figures were revealed in a parliamentary written answer to Karen Buck, Labour MP for Regent’s Park and Kensington North.
A spokeswoman for Westminster Academy in Harrow Road said the outstanding £300,000 there was not due until mid-2010 under an agreement it struck with its philanthropist sponsor.
Mr Bates said: “This is very worrying. These sponsors promised to pay and they haven’t done. There was no reason why these schools couldn’t have remained under the control of the local authority in the first place.
“We sell them off to private groups, who aren’t accountable… It’s disgraceful. How can we trust them to run a school, when nobody knows what’s going on?
“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of pounds which is no small deal to a school.”
Ms Buck said: “This is about transparency.
“If a contract has been signed, I think it is reasonable that we should be told whether the money has been paid. If it is still outstanding, or if it is not going to be paid, on what basis was that decision made?
“I am a supporter of academies, and Paddington and Westminster are much improved on what was there before.”
A spokeswoman for ULT said: “As Karen Buck has noted, Paddington Academy has transformed the education of local children.
“The sponsorship arrangement is between ULT and the government and has no impact on the education delivered at Paddington Academy. The sponsorship pledge is due to the DCSF0 over a period of seven years and ULT will continue to work towards meeting the balance.”

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