Boston

Lincolnshire MP slams trio who took thousands to run illegal school

Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman said “residents were tormented by anti-social behaviour due to an incredible lack of safeguarding provisions” at an unregistered school near Boston.

As previously reported, three people pleaded guilty to running an unsafe and unregistered school – Freiston Hall. They also misled local authorities into paying thousands of pounds of public money for children to be educated at the school, which has since closed.

Patricia Hodgkinson, Dr. Albert Okoye and Clement Earle pleaded guilty at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on September 26 to conducting an unregistered, independent school under section 96 of the Education and Skills Act 2008. They received a conditional discharge and were ordered to pay £1,000 costs and £20 victim surcharge.

MP Matt Warman said he raised his concerns with Ofsted and was “reassured by their intention to investigate the facility thoroughly”. He also plans to follow-up on “a number of avenues” in due course.

Freiston Hall. Photo: Ofsted

The prosecution, only the third of its kind, was brought following an investigation by Ofsted’s unregistered schools taskforce.

After the investigation, Frieston Hall was closed because Ofsted issued the associated children’s home with a suspension notice. Children were then removed and placed elsewhere, so the proprietors had no choice other than to close the school.

Six local authorities were misled into paying public money for children to be educated at Freiston Hall School. Local authorities were being charged £1,200 a week for each child’s education. Some local authorities told Ofsted that they were assured by the school that it was registered.

Full statement from Matt Warman

MP Matt Warman said: “I am pleased to see the people who were illegally running the unregistered Freiston Hall School have now been convicted.

“Residents of Freiston were tormented by anti-social behaviour due to an incredible lack of safeguarding provisions to care for children with highly complex physical and mental health needs. Those children themselves, were also put at enormous personal risk, and councils outside Lincolnshire spent large sums of public money on a service that was dangerous.

“After those in charge showed complete indifference towards the daily abuse my constituents were facing and displayed a frightening lack of regard for confidentiality when it came to the children in their care, I raised my concerns with Ofsted and was reassured by their intention to investigate the facility thoroughly.

“The school was found to have failed in carrying out the necessary staff suitability checks and had not provided staff the required level of first aid training. The school was closed following an unannounced inspection where inspectors found unsupervised children wandering around the premises.

“The sentence isn’t as severe as I know many residents of Freiston would like, although I am hopeful that these convictions provide a degree of deterrent that we should all welcome. There are a number of avenues I will be following up, and hope to be able to make further comment in due course.”