Government funding agencies publish reports on Barnfield Federation

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Education Funding Agency (EFA) have this afternoon published findings from their investigations into alleged funding of “ghost learners” and financial mismanagement at Barnfield Federation.

The SFA report explains how the federation’s college slashed funding claims by nearly £1m after the probe, by auditors KPMG, got under way. Among the problems was guided learning hours failing to match attendance registers “leading to an overstatement of funding”.

It said: “In summary, a lack of oversight by governors of the organisation as a whole, together with a lack of clarity around financial information led to risks not being identified around the financial performance of the college.”

The Education Funding Agency’s investigation report also came out today. It looked at many of the same issues covered by the SFA probe.

The SFA report went on to outline how federation founder, former director general and ex-college principal Sir Peter Birkett was allowed to leave last year with an Audi A5 company car because governors thought he would in fact be getting a far less expensive, and older, Jaguar. He also got two, unspecified, lump sum payments and an additional month’s holiday pay.

None of the perks had been in his contract, although the report said he had only asked for a “few extra days holiday in excess of his contractual entitlement”.

The report, which came out the day Hertfordshire Police decided it would not carry out a criminal investigation, continued: “We do not believe that the board properly and diligently negotiated the former principal’s final payment on leaving the college, mistakenly allowing an expensive motor vehicle to be transferred to him and, in addition, paid him above that to which he was contractually entitled.

“This was not proper use of college funds.”

A Barnfield Federation spokesperson told FE Week it had been, “working for some months to address the issues raised by the agency investigation, and are putting in place a set of actions which address those issues”.

She added: “We are determined to put Barnfield Federation at the forefront of local education provision.

“We are proud of our education record and we are determined to maintain and exceed those standards for future generations of students and their parents.”

The federation’s interim chief executive, Dame Jackie Fisher, said: “We are tackling the issues raised by the report with the single aim of ensuring that Barnfield is a strong, fit-for-purpose education provider that puts its students, parents and staff at the forefront of its thinking and actions.

“Our efforts over the next few months will be to identify and deliver the best possible shape and structure for the federation, the college and our academies.”

Sir Peter could not be contacted by FE Week.