2nd November 2018
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education brought to you by Education Advisers...
Private school heads have criticised Ben Wallace, the security minister, for “outrageous, unsubstantiated” claims that they may be involved in money laundering.
Mike Buchanan, the executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said that it was “entirely wrong” to suggest that schools were turning a blind eye or inadvertently accepting dirty money from organised crime.
Mr Wallace had warned public schools, football clubs and luxury car garages that they must report irregularities to the authorities.
The private school sector attacked the comments, insisting that it had a system in place to report suspicions of “dodgy” money. Mr Buchanan said: “Our schools follow the letter of the law, have robust systems in place for reporting any suspicious funds and are determined to play their part in stamping out any criminal activity. There is no evidence we are aware of that any school has ever knowingly taken illicit payments and it is entirely wrong for anyone to suggest so.
“We are continuously working with the Home Office and other agencies to raise awareness of the methods used by criminals.”
One bursar at a private school said that fees were paid almost exclusively through direct debits with high street banks. Any attempt to pay in cash would be refused. The Home Office was unable to produce evidence that any private school was involved in accepting cash from organised criminals.
The UK government has issued warning notices to almost 150 private schools in the last 12 months
The letters are issued when regulatory failures are uncovered by Ofsted or the Independent Schools Inspectorate. Private schools must submit action plans to address the problems and can be closed down if they don’t act.
The Department for Education published the warning notices for the first time in February. September marked a year since the first of the published notices was issued, with 148 handed out in total. Twelve of the underperforming schools have since closed, three of which were serving pupils with special educational needs.
Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said while the vast majority of private schools given warnings were not members of his organisation.
But he said: “The vast majority of our schools get these things right and those who don’t should work quickly to make sure that they do.”
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