Three convicted of fraud at Bradford free school
It was supposed to be the flagship school which paved the way for other institutions to follow the free school initiative.
Instead, Kings Science Academy turned out to be the site of a three year investigation into financial fraud, with three people this month being found guilty of financial malpractice at Leeds Crown Court.
Former principal and founder Sajid Hussain Raza, former finance director Daud Khan and former head of department Shabana Hussain will all be sentenced in September after concerns about the school’s finances were first raised in October 2013.
A report into the finances back then revealed ‘serious failings’ which included false invoicing and the unaccounted disappearance of tens of thousands of pounds.
Staff appointments were also questioned by Department for Education auditors, after it was revealed members of Raza’s family had been hired to work at the school.
Despite protests from some parents, Raza was eventually sacked by the school following an internal disciplinary hearing in August 2014 – one month before the school joined the city’s Dixons Academy chain and was re-named Dixons Kings Academy.
Raza, Khan and Hussain were all eventually charged with fraud in March 2015 and found guilty at Leeds Crown court earlier this month.
Speaking after the verdict at Leeds Crown Court, Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Jon Morgan, said: “This was a complex inquiry which involved a thorough investigation of all aspects of the school’s governance and its finances over a number of years.
“Raza, Hussain and Khan were in positions of trust, stealing thousands of pounds of public money which was intended for the development of a newly formed academy.
“They acted selfishly and dishonestly in obtaining these funds and I would like to thank everyone who has helped uncover their unscrupulous activities and brought them to justice.”
The school, which had been visited by then Prime Minister David Cameron, has since begun to improve its standards according to education inspectors, Ofsted.
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said there were now more people who had questions to answer following the guilty verdict.
“It is disgraceful that these three individuals pocketed public money intended for the education of Bradford children for their own personal gain,” he said.
“They have been convicted unanimously and will have to pay a heavy price for their fraudulent activity.
“However there are further questions surrounding these events which remain unanswered and for which the Department for Education (DfE) and Education Funding Agency (EFA) must answer.”
He continued: “This was one of the first of Michael Gove's flagship free schools. In the haste to open the school, it is clear that insufficient due diligence was carried out on the individuals establishing this school, particularly in light of the revelations made in the course of this trial that the school's founder and former Principal had financial problems.”