The former boss of the Barnfield Federation says he was “not aware” of the current government investigation at Barnfield College.
Sir Peter Birkett resigned as director general of the federation in July and is now CEO of GEMS Education, a company that owns and operates schools worldwide.
Intermin CEO Stephen Hall said Sir Peter’s departure could have been one of the “trigger factors” which prompted the Department for Education (DfE) and Skills Funding Agency (SfA) investigation.
In a statement released last night, Sir Peter said: “Through the media I have just learned of a DfE audit of Barnfield, however, I am not aware of the purpose or scope of the audit so am unable to comment on the specifics.
“What I can say is that when I moved on from Barnfield as Director General of the whole Barnfield Federation it was reported to me that the interim results were the highest ever, there were healthy financial reserves and the staffing reshaping of the college would place the organisation in a solid position moving forward.
“Policy and practices were regularly internally and externally reviewed and if found in need of improvement then action was taken immediately. Barnfield in the past explored the possibility of turning the college into a not for profit company – it was concluded not to pursue this. I am sure Barnfield will continue to do what is in the best interest of its students”.
Interim CEOs of Barnfield Mr Hall and Helen Mayhew said they are not sure what exactly is being investigated by the auditors.
Mr Hall said: “We don’t know the details of what they are investigating and we don’t know what they have found.”
However, he confirmed the college’s finances and students’ exam results are being looked at.
Mr Hall said: “In January this year we declared our financial challenge to the SfA. Essentially the college has gone from operating with a surplus to not in a surplus.
“With such a high profile leader as Sir Peter moving on, it’s a trigger factor. Part of an accumulation of things that caused the investigation.
“There have been serious allegations made and the DfE must investigate whenever there is a whistle-blower, whether there is any substance to the allegations or not.”
A Barnfield spokesman said on Monday that the college has “significant cash reserves and is financially stable.”
The DfE and SfA have concluded their investigation at the college and the report is expected to be published in the next four to six weeks.
Conversion of Putteridge High School in Luton to an academy at St George’s Lower School in Leighton Buzzard are “on pause” until the results of the investigation are published, Mr Hall confirmed.
For more exclusive revelations see the Luton News and Luton Today next week.