Glemsford Primary debts written off by bank as huge leasing scam uncovered

Former Glemsford Head Liz Steele on Panorama
Direct Link to her speaking
This blog has covered the sorry tale of Glemsford Primary where a combination of a “too good to be true” deal and poor decision making left the school with half a million pounds worth of debt for laptops worth a fraction of the cost.

The saga cost the Headteacher Liz Steele and her IT Technician son their jobs and the Governing Body were also removed by Suffolk County Council.

Following an investigation by BBC Panorama (that you can catch on iPlayer if you missed it) a huge leasing scam has been uncovered affecting up to 200 schools across the country. Some people appear to have made literally millions of pounds from these deals.

Panorama challenged the banks involved in financing these deals and as a result Clydesdale Bank have written off debts to 16 schools - including Glemsford. This is great news for the school and for Suffolk Council Tax payers who could have ended up paying this debt.

Former Head Liz Steele appeared on the programme (in fact the only Head to do so without concealing their identity). Ms Steele is understandably upset that her 40 year long career in education ended in this way and Panorama raise an important question. Are schools equipped to deal on their on their own with these kind of financial issues that would previously been handled by Local Authorities?

In the case of Glemsford clearly they were not. In the rush to give schools more “freedoms” it seems some schools are ending up with more autonomy than they can handle. Heads aren’t trained to manage budgets and Governors do not necessarily have the right experience either - Panorama citing this as a particular issue in Primary Schools.

It is difficult to imagine the DfE signing off photocopier and laptop orders from Whitehall and sadly it seems that some schools are just an easy target on the way to companies making a quick buck. This is yet more evidence of the “missing middle” in education. If Local Authorities aren’t going to fulfil this role then someone certainly needs to.
Suffolk County Council 4000186095784014874

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