THE Barnfield Federation is one step closer to running a new primary school in Cambridgeshire - despite being under investigation by the government.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s cabinet met yesterday (October 29) to decide which organisation it wants to sponsor the new school in North Ely.
Members chose the Barnfield Schole Academy Trust as its preferred sponsor - despite being aware that the organisation is currently being investigated by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).
The academy trust, which was due to take over the running of Sandy Upper School in Bedfordshire, was one of six education providers that applied to the council to run the new school, which is due to open next September.
Other applicants were the Active Learning Trust, the Elliot Foundation, CfBT, the Diocese of Ely Multi Academy Trust and Schools Company Ltd.
The decision comes a week after a spokesman for the SFA said it had ‘received allegations’ against Barnfield which were being taken ‘seriously’.
The inquiry is looking at the Federation’s finances, as well as its information systems and management systems.
Among the areas being looked into are allegations of ‘grade massaging’ which are being levelled at Barnfield College.
Luton MPs, Gavin Shuker and Kelvin Hopkins, have written to the DfE voicing their concerns about the Federation, and Mr Shuker said he will be looking for opportunities to quiz Education Secretary Michael Gove about the matter.
In yesterday’s meeting, Cambridgeshire County Council’s council’s executive director for children, families and adults recommended that members chose the Barnfield Schole Academy Trust, saying in a report that the organisation had demonstrated “the greatest understanding of the local context in which it would operate”.
They added it that it had shown “experience in setting up schools in sometimes challenging environments”.
David Harty, cabinet member for education and learning, told the cabinet the council had learned of the investigation only after an assessment panel had made its decision.
He said: “Whilst I remain confident that the panel was right to select Barnfield Schole Academy Trust as their preferred sponsor... There is a possibility that the Secretary of State may decide not to enter into a funding agreement with the trust by December 12, 2013.”
The cabinet agreed that should that happen, The Active Learning Trust would become their alternative preferred sponsor.
The final decision now lies with the Secretary of State.