Silver Birch Academy Trust in spotlight again over spending

A trust that runs four primary schools spent thousands of pounds on overseas trips for its leaders, more than £1,000 on two hotel rooms for two nights and almost £10,000 on Facebook adverts for a free school that has not yet been set up, according to allegations in a draft investigation seen by the Observer.

In a case that will raise further questions about the financial management of academies, an inquiry into Silver Birch Academy Trust claims it spent £6,117 on a fact-finding trip to China and New Zealand for its chief executive Patricia Davies, a former headteacher of the year, and her deputy. The draft investigation states that the trust allegedly spent £99,000 refurbishing a former caretaker’s house, later to be rented out to a member of staff. It claimed £10,000 of work had been done without quotes having been obtained, while no rent had been paid.

It alleges the trust spent £3.26m on services from six companies without providing evidence of any contracts having been signed. It also alleges that the trust had contracts with four consultancy companies, together worth £326,044, without the work having gone out to tender. Meanwhile, a school within the trust spent £1,064 on two rooms for two nights at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Birmingham, with £507 of this for a room where the guest did not turn up.

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