Flagship free schools probed over 'financial irregularity' claims; PERRY BEECHES ACADEMY TRUST UNDER INVESTIGATION EXCLUSIVE.
Byline: EMMA MCKINNEY Education Correspondent email@example.com emma.mckinney@
GOVERNMENT officials are investigating allegations of "financial irregularity" at a chain of Birmingham schools.
The Department for Education has launched the probe after the allegations were made about Perry Beeches Academy Trust.
The Trust, led by "super" head teacher Liam Nolan, runs a chain of five schools in Birmingham - including Perry Beeches The Academy in Great Barr, Perry Beeches II in the city centre and Perry Beeches IV in the Jewellery Quarter.
A DFE spokesman said: "We have received allegations about possible financial irregularity at Perry Beeches Academy Trust.
"It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."
The news comes as a fresh blow for the Trust, which was left reeling after education watchdog Ofsted plunged one of its schools into special measures in July.
In a damning report, Ofsted rated Perry Beeches III in the city centre as "inadequate" - branding teaching "dull", while criticising management performance and student behaviour.
The free school was opened two years ago by the Prime Minister and hailed as the future of British education. It is one of four free schools in the Perry Beeches chain.
The Ofsted bombshell came as an embarrassment to the Government, which has pledged to open 500 new free schools across England by 2020 - including at least six in Birmingham.
Mr Cameron said the government-funded start-up schools were "raising standards and restoring discipline" over state schools.
However, Ofsted has rated a quarter of the mainstream free schools inspected across England so far as "inadequate" or "requiring improvement".
Meanwhile, the Labour Party says free schools lead to school places being created where they are not needed - a sentiment shared with Birmingham City Council.
Coun Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children's services, earlier this year hit out at plans by Mr Nolan to open his fifth free school in Small Heath.
The school - Perry Beeches V - opened its doors for the first time last month, despite the council lobbying the DFE in a bid to block the move.
The council said the all-through school, for pupils aged four to 19, would create an oversupply of places in Small Heath.
Perry Beeches Academy Trust was unavailable for comment.
Councillor Brigid Jones
Perry Beeches Academy Trust chief executive officer Liam Nolan
Perry Beeches III was opened two years ago by Prime Minister David Cameron
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|Publication:||Birmingham Mail (England)|
|Date:||Oct 12, 2015|
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