Rickmansworth School's finances probed by government body

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter

Rickmansworth School has been investigated by a government body responsible for examining possible misuse of funds in academies.

The Croxley Green school was visited in September 2012 by the Education Funding Agency’s Internal Audit Investigation Team after an anonymous whistleblower voiced concerns about financial practices.

A report obtained by the Watford Observer does not identify any instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety and makes no suggestion of improper behaviour.

However, on their visit to the school investigators noted the purchase of alcohol on an academy credit card and the delivery of some items to an address that was not the academy’s.

The document also reveals the academy fell victim to a scam relating to the leasing of photocopiers which may end up costing it £28,000 over a three year period.

Among the other concerns outlined is work on the school’s geography block that was carried out by a company that was owned by the premises manager’s brother-in-law.

While this relationship was not kept secret, the inspectors noted all engagement with the company was not handled by an independent party.

The school is understood to have been in possession of the report for some time but its existence has not been widely disclosed until now.

A source close to the school said: “The school got a copy of the report, which it won’t publish even though it said it would.

“There is so much secrecy it encourages you to think it’s a cover-up.”

Among the recommendations the report makes is that financial regulations should be signed off by the governing body as soon as possible and issued to members of staff, particularly those relating to expenses claims, recruitment of family members and the purchase and use of alcohol.

Kevin Flanagan, acting headteacher at Rickmansworth School, said: “The EFA conducted a thorough investigation and did not identify any instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety in our school’s finances.

“The investigation also helped us identify some areas where improvements can be made to our financial systems and we are addressing these immediately.

“The EFA highlighted that the school not only has to follow best practice, as we always have done, but we are now required to evidence that we have done this. As a result, we are introducing new reporting and checking systems and have updated our financial policy accordingly.

“As a school we take the control of public funds incredibly seriously and all funds entering the school are being spent to ensure the very best education for our children.

“We understand that the investigation took place because someone contacted the EFA with concerns about financial irregularities, which the investigation proved to be unfounded. We have found the EFA investigation to be a very supportive process.

“As well as comprehensively demonstrating that there are no irregularities in our finances, they have brought to light some areas of improvement and have helped move the school forward. I am pleased we have had the chance to work so closely with the EFA.

“I am having a further meeting with the EFA on February 27 along with governor representation to discuss our progress on improvements.”

Two weeks ago, deputy headmaster Tim Griffiths left the school. However, a representative for Hertfordshire County Council said his departure was not related to the report.

Comments (11)

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9:37am Thu 21 Feb 13

Uneek says...

Surely if the school was following best practice as stated by KF then this wouldn't have happened !!
Surely if the school was following best practice as stated by KF then this wouldn't have happened !! Uneek
  • Score: 0

10:40am Thu 21 Feb 13

croxleyite says...

Ah right, so Kevin Flanagan "acting headteacher" (makes you wonder where the actual head teacher is!?) said that he conducted a thorough investigation and did not identify any instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety in our school’s finances. Surely the use of the school's credit card to purchase alcohol and goods being delivered to an address other than the school is somewhat alarming to say the least. Strange that he also failed to mention more detail about the photocopier contract? It is clearly apparent that some rules and regulations gave been breached as the school failed to publish the report when they said they would? If there is no instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety then why not publish the report? In fact I feel that the school should be forced to publish it!
As for Mr Griffiths leaving the school two weeks ago, this is a little odd as it is my understanding that he has not been at the school since well before Christmas. lots of questions here but very little in the way of open and honest answers from the "Acting Head"?
Ah right, so Kevin Flanagan "acting headteacher" (makes you wonder where the actual head teacher is!?) said that he conducted a thorough investigation and did not identify any instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety in our school’s finances. Surely the use of the school's credit card to purchase alcohol and goods being delivered to an address other than the school is somewhat alarming to say the least. Strange that he also failed to mention more detail about the photocopier contract? It is clearly apparent that some rules and regulations gave been breached as the school failed to publish the report when they said they would? If there is no instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety then why not publish the report? In fact I feel that the school should be forced to publish it! As for Mr Griffiths leaving the school two weeks ago, this is a little odd as it is my understanding that he has not been at the school since well before Christmas. lots of questions here but very little in the way of open and honest answers from the "Acting Head"? croxleyite
  • Score: 0

12:03pm Thu 21 Feb 13

garston tony says...

Croxleyite, its the education funding authority who carried out the inspection and found no instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety. Not the acting head or anyone else at the academy
Croxleyite, its the education funding authority who carried out the inspection and found no instances of fraud, irregularity or impropriety. Not the acting head or anyone else at the academy garston tony
  • Score: 0

12:55pm Thu 21 Feb 13

croxleyite says...

garston tony, I stand corrected in that it was the EFA that conducted the investigation, and although they found no evidence of fraud, irrgeularity or impropriety, then why has no comment been made regarding what alcohol was purchased and what it was for, what goods were delivered to who's address and moreso, why the report has not been made public when the school said it would be?
garston tony, I stand corrected in that it was the EFA that conducted the investigation, and although they found no evidence of fraud, irrgeularity or impropriety, then why has no comment been made regarding what alcohol was purchased and what it was for, what goods were delivered to who's address and moreso, why the report has not been made public when the school said it would be? croxleyite
  • Score: 0

12:58pm Thu 21 Feb 13

croxleyite says...

garston tony, I stand corrected that the EFA carried out the investigation but it still begs several questions that if there is nothing to hide, then why are comments not being made as to what the alcohol purchase was for, what goods were delivered to what addresses and why on earth, if there's nothing sinister or damning in the report, has it not been made public when the school said it would be?
garston tony, I stand corrected that the EFA carried out the investigation but it still begs several questions that if there is nothing to hide, then why are comments not being made as to what the alcohol purchase was for, what goods were delivered to what addresses and why on earth, if there's nothing sinister or damning in the report, has it not been made public when the school said it would be? croxleyite
  • Score: 0

3:22pm Fri 1 Mar 13

chrish0_0 says...

Not to mention work contracts being won by a relative of the site manager. That stinks...
I wonder if he will get the contract to fix the pool. If it ever gets fixed.
Not to mention work contracts being won by a relative of the site manager. That stinks... I wonder if he will get the contract to fix the pool. If it ever gets fixed. chrish0_0
  • Score: 0

9:27am Sat 2 Mar 13

SirTobyofCroxley says...

....and what about the Governors at the School? Surely they are ultimately responsible for sorting out this mess. Where is the Head? My son went to this school when Mr Griffiths was there and he was brilliant at steering this great school. What happens next? It needs to return to form...
....and what about the Governors at the School? Surely they are ultimately responsible for sorting out this mess. Where is the Head? My son went to this school when Mr Griffiths was there and he was brilliant at steering this great school. What happens next? It needs to return to form... SirTobyofCroxley
  • Score: 0

10:11am Sun 3 Mar 13

CroxleyS says...

as sir toby of croxley says where are the governors in this mess? The standards of the school are falling and whilst the acting head Mr Flanagan is still at the helm standards wil continue to fall further to the detriment of the childrens education. Apparently OFSTED are due in at the school in the near future for the 5 year inspection. Time for all the lone voices to unite as one and tell OFSTED so action can be taken.
as sir toby of croxley says where are the governors in this mess? The standards of the school are falling and whilst the acting head Mr Flanagan is still at the helm standards wil continue to fall further to the detriment of the childrens education. Apparently OFSTED are due in at the school in the near future for the 5 year inspection. Time for all the lone voices to unite as one and tell OFSTED so action can be taken. CroxleyS
  • Score: 0

7:36am Mon 4 Mar 13

SirTobyofCroxley says...

Also, rumour is that Mr Griffiths was the whistleblower mentioned in the article. Anyone else heard this? Toby
Also, rumour is that Mr Griffiths was the whistleblower mentioned in the article. Anyone else heard this? Toby SirTobyofCroxley
  • Score: 0

11:44am Mon 4 Mar 13

CroxleyS says...

@ Sir Toby , Dont know about whistle blowing but in the Govenors minutes of the 20th March 2012 which are located in the public domain on the Rickmansworth School site there is some interesting information about Mr Griffiths refusing to resign and and being opposed to the staffing structure which was being proposed by Dr Burton. Have a read.
@ Sir Toby , Dont know about whistle blowing but in the Govenors minutes of the 20th March 2012 which are located in the public domain on the Rickmansworth School site there is some interesting information about Mr Griffiths refusing to resign and and being opposed to the staffing structure which was being proposed by Dr Burton. Have a read. CroxleyS
  • Score: 0

5:04pm Mon 4 Mar 13

SirTobyofCroxley says...

Yes this is interesting. More interesting is the fact that further meeting minutes aren't available...
Yes this is interesting. More interesting is the fact that further meeting minutes aren't available... SirTobyofCroxley
  • Score: 0

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