Ex-Barnfield boss resigns from new post due to DfE probe

The former director general of Barnfield College, which is currently being investigated by the Department For Education, has resigned from his new role.

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton
Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton

Sir Peter Birkett announced today that he is stepping down from his role as chief executive of GEMS Education UK & Europe after just three months as the Barnfield investigation could be a “distraction”.

He resigned from the Luton-based Barnfield Federation in July. The academy group which he founded is now under investigation by the DfE and Skills Funding Agency concerning – among other things – its finances and exam results.

Sir Peter said: “Over the past several weeks the DfE investigation of the Barnfield Federation has achieved prominence in the press. In order that this issue does not become an undue distraction for my colleagues and the work of GEMS Education I have decided to resign from my position.”

Sir Peter Birkett

Dino Varkey, Group Chief Operating Officer of GEMS Education said: “With sadness, we support Peter Birkett’s decision to stand down with immediate effect, as he has requested. We thank him for his hard work and wish him well in the future.”

The Barnfield Federation sponsors a number of schools in Bedfordshire including Barnfield West Academy, Barnfield South Academy, Barnfield College, Barnfield Moorlands Free School, Barnfield Vale Academy and Barnfield Skills Academy.

Putteridge High School in Luton is currently waiting to convert to Barnfield East Academy but will not be able to until the DfE investigation is complete.

St George’s Lower School in Leighton Buzzard and Sandy Upper School in Sandy are both waiting to convert.

Gavin Shuker, MP for Luton South, said: “Peter Birkett was the architect of Barnfield’s expansion, with virtually every decision coming across his desk. If the report is critical of Barnfield, it is inconceivable for it not to be equally damning of Sir Peter’s time at the Federation.”

In October, the Federation pulled out of Dunstable middle school Brewers Hill even though parents had already bought new academy uniforms.

The college declared financial “challenges” to the SfA earlier this year and the investigation was launched in September after serious allegations were made.

The problems continued for the Federation when the Under-Secretary of State for Schools wrote to the college with an official pre-warning regarding the performance of students at the Studio Academy.

Lord John Nash highlighted that just nine per cent of students achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C or above in 2013 including English and maths.

The Academy had predicted that 50 per cent of students would achieve five or more GSCEs at Grade C or above in 2013.

The nine per cent rate was down from 13 per cent in 2012.

> A report from the DfE and SfA is expected to be published imminently.