Police investigate £73,000 theft from school in Whitechapel

The money was stolen from The London Enterprise Academy over eight months but not discovered and reported to police until...

The money was stolen from The London Enterprise Academy over eight months but not discovered and reported to police until March 2019. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

Detectives are investigating after more than £73,000 was stolen from a Whitechapel school and the theft went unnoticed for months.

The London Enterprise Academy had “a number of failings and weaknesses in financial management”, according to a damning government report released this month.

Thousands was stolen from the secondary school, run by the Tower Hamlets Enterprise Academy Ltd, over a period of eight months but not discovered and reported to police until March 2019.

In a statement, a spokesman for the trust said: “Our school became a victim of fraud. The previous administration are no longer employed by the trust and as such the trust has ensured that moving forward we now have tighter internal controls in place and that future recommendations are addressed in a timely manner.

“Tower Hamlets Enterprise Academy feels it has now acted on and continues to implement the necessary steps to ensure that full compliance under the Academies Handbook is in place.

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“As a trust we will always continue to seek and take advice from our auditors in implementing any further improvements to the strengthening of our trust’s processes and procedures.”

“There is a live police investigation into the theft. We informed the Department for Education and we informed the police. We took swift action.”

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But the Education and Skills Funding Agency (EDFA) said the fact the fraud went unnoticed for so long put the school in breach of the Academies Financial Handbook, which requires trusts to be aware of the risks of theft and financial irregularities and have controls in place to prevent them.

Investigators found that the school had paid for a staff member’s Amazon Prime membership and late credit card payment fees and a former employee had linked their personal account to the trust on a banking app.

The school was also claiming more students were in receipt of free school meals than the council had on its records.

“Allegations were made in relation to poor financial controls, failure to adhere to finance procedures, the number of free school meal students not matching eligibility data and off payroll payments to self-employed staff,” the EDFA report states.

“Our findings upheld a number of these concerns. They also provide an insight into how a breakdown in controls led to the trust becoming a victim of theft which remained undetected for eight months.”

The school, which opened six years ago, was rated as Inadequate by Ofsted last year and placed in special measures.

However, in a monitoring visit report published in January inspectors said “effective action” was being taken by the school’s managers to improve.

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