Charity Commission freezes Christian school charity's assets

The regulator has serious concerns about the governance of the Grangewood Educational Trust and has appointed two interim managers

Grangewood Independent School (Image: Google Maps)
Grangewood Independent School (Image: Google Maps)

The Charity Commission has frozen the assets of a charity that runs a Christian primary school and appointed interim managers amid "serious concerns" about its governance.

The regulator has opened an investigation into the Grangewood Educational Association, which operates Grangewood Independent School in the east London borough of Newham.

The school, which teaches about 50 children aged between two and eleven, was founded in 1979.

According to the commission, the charity entered into a company voluntary arrangement in 2014 to resolve financial difficulties.

It sold its premises in 2015 and has been functioning recently with only one trustee.

"This is in breach of the charity’s governing document, which requires three trustees to make decisions," the commission said in a statement.

Complaints about the charity’s governance and management prompted the commission to get involved.

The investigation will consider whether the charity complied with charity law when it disposed of the property in 2015 and how trustees managed potential conflicts of interest.

It will also look into whether connected-party transactions and remuneration to trustees were properly authorised, as well as considering the charity’s future.

"Due to the lack of effective governance oversight at the charity, the commission has appointed Geoff Carton-Kelly and Jason Daniel Baker of FRP Advisory as joint interim managers of the charity," the statement said.

"The school presently remains in operation. Part of the interim managers’ duties will be to establish the viability of the charity and the school it operates and determine the most appropriate option regarding the charity’s future."

Parents occupied the school and refused to leave after being told in March it could close because of "financial constraints".

Sophia McDonald, who has two children at the school, told Third Sector she was part of a 10-strong interim board set up in April.

McDonald said news of the possible closure "came as a complete and utter shock to parents".

She said: "I hope the commission gets to the bottom of what's been happening."

McDonald said she understood that the school would stay open until at least the end of the summer term, when a decision was expected. "Ideally it will carry on beyond then," she said.

According to the latest figures filed with the commission, the charity had an income of £381,200 and spending of £625,200 in the year ending 31 August 2016. It was the fourth consecutive year in which the charity had recorded a deficit.

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