Exclusive: DfE monitoring guest speakers and donations at free school trust
The Department for Education requires a free schools trust to provide it with details of all guest speakers, as well as of all donations made by the trust or its pupils, documents show.
Tauheedul Free School Trust, which has schools in Blackburn and Hackney, is subject to the highly unusual monitoring.
The Trust has opened three free schools since 2012, with the arrangements in place since before any of the schools opened.
The news is likely to raise questions about monitoring arrangements for free schools and academies, as well as questions about the DfE’s reasons for monitoring the Trust.
The Trust runs Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School, a secondary school in Blackburn, and two primaries: The Olive School in Blackburn, and a second Olive School in Hackney.
The schools are run on a progressive Muslim ethos, and “embrace the Big Society” according to the Trust’s website.
But under the terms of its Trust’s funding agreement (PDF), the Trust must “provide the Secretary of State with information of all donations it, its Academies and pupils acting in an Academy’s name, have made … including the names of the recipient organisations and the size of the donations”.
Additionally, the Trust is required to “provide the Secretary of State with a list of all guest speakers invited to each of its Academies”, the documents show.
Funding agreements are the contracts agreed between the Secretary of State and academy trusts, which set out the terms under which an academy or free school can be run.
EverythingFreeSchools is not aware of any other academy or free school trusts which are required to provide this information to the DfE.
Asked about the arrangement, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is not unusual to tailor funding agreements to the circumstances of individual schools or Trusts.” No further explanation was provided.
The Trust said that it was happy to comply with the DfE’s requirements.
“We are open and transparent as an organisation and have no problem whatsoever in meeting the requirements of our Funding Agreement,” a spokesperson for Tauheedul Free Schools Trust said.
The clauses formed part of the Trust’s original funding agreement, dated 10 September 2012.
A new funding agreement was issued on 19 August 2013, as the Trust expanded, which did not included these clauses. The DfE have confirmed this was an oversight, however, and the clauses were subsequently added back in to the funding agreement in December 2013 in a deed of variation (PDF) signed on behalf of the Secretary of State.
The clauses read:
96A) (iii) The [Trust] shall provide the Secretary of State with information of all donations it, its Academies and pupils acting in an Academy’s name, have made during an Academy Financial Year at the end of that year, including the names of the recipient organisations and the size of the donations.
96A) (iv) The [Trust] shall provide the Secretary of State with a list of all guest speakers invited to each of its Academies during an Academy Financial year at the end of that year.
The DfE was asked whether any other free schools were subject to such monitoring, but did not respond to the question.
The DfE was also asked whether the monitoring was a response to allegations reported in a Sunday Times article in September last year.
The newspaper reported that concerns had been raised in 2011 about another school run by the Tauheedul Islam Faith, Education and Community Trust, which set up the Tauheedul Free Schools Trust.
According to the Sunday Times, a dossier had been given to the Department for Education in 2011 (£) by a former government adviser on the prevention of extremism, reporting that the school had been visited by a Saudi cleric who is alleged to have previously referred to Jews as “pigs” and the “scum of the human race”.
Asked about the DfE’s monitoring of Tauheedul Free Schools Trust, a spokesperson said: “Tauheedul operates some of the highest achieving state schools in this country, with British Values and Citizenship at their core.
“We cannot comment on a dossier we have never seen, but did highlight inaccuracies in The Sunday Times article at the time.
“We are open and transparent as an organisation and have no problem whatsoever in meeting the requirements of our Funding Agreement.”
Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School was inspected by Ofsted in March this year, and was judged to be outstanding. The two Olive Schools, in Blackburn and Hackney, only opened in September 2013 and have yet to receive a section 5 inspection.
The Trust’s schools are understood to feature in a Dispatches film to be aired tonight.
EverythingFreeSchools would be interested to hear of any other schools being monitored in a similar way – please get in touch.