Repay £91k, Academy head asked

090545b news' New Scalby Head Paul Tarn and Michael Wilkins(National Leader of Education Executive Principle) who is overseeing progression at the Sch.
090545b news' New Scalby Head Paul Tarn and Michael Wilkins(National Leader of Education Executive Principle) who is overseeing progression at the Sch.

THE head of Outwood Grange Academy has been asked to repay £91,692 after an investigation revealed payments made to him for consultancy work on top of his £130,000 salary were not properly authorised.

The Express revealed in March that Wakefield Council was looking into extra payments received by Michael Wilkins, and whether he spent too much time away from his role at Outwood.

His salary was paid by the council prior to the school becoming an academy in 2009. It said some of his consultancy work helping other schools to improve, should have been covered by his agreed salary of £130,000.

The school denied Mr Wilkins had neglected his role, citing a year-on-year increase in exam results since his appointment as proof.

But it acknowledged that he had received additional payments through his company, Challenge Leadership Limited, in recognition of his work for other schools as a national leader of education.

It said this was done on a temporary basis until his salary was reviewed and increased once governor’s established the work would involve extra responsibilities on a long-term basis.

On Tuesday, Judith Badger, the council’s director of finance, said the investigation showed it had ‘legitimate cause for concern’ about the payments.

A letter sent to the Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) last July, by Bernadette Livesey, service director legal and democratic services said payments of £500 per day made to Mr Wilkins by Outwood Grange College had never had formal approval.

The letter stated the school’s policy on payment for external work approved by governors in 2006, and guidance issued by the Association of School and College Leaders, showed he should only have been getting £217.

As a result Mr Wilkins was requested to pay more than £90,000 back to the council.

But no repayment has been made, despite a lengthy mediation process the council has confirmed.

Ms Badger said: “The council has done everything it should have done to pursue the issue, however the council has been advised that the right to bring any future proceedings and the benefit to be gained belongs to OGAT and not the council, therefore the council will not be taking any further action.”

A statement released by the OGAT said it was proud of the commitment that Mr Wilkins and other staff had shown since 2007 in helping failing schools.

It added: “The trust will continue to support the academy’s involvement in the NLE programme, and is happy to have employed and remunerated Mr Wilkins on the basis he has been, for the work he has done.”

The statement also said: “Steps are being taken across the trust structure to review the financial policies, controls and monitoring procedures. A thorough review of authorisation processes, including in relation to payments and expenses, is under way.”

Mr Wilkins, whose work has been publicly championed by education secretary Michael Gove, was not available to comment.