The Chair of the Cape York Partnership has criticised sections of the media for publishing "misleading headlines", after a Queensland Audit Office report last week revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars had been overpaid to a Cape York school it helped run using controversial teaching methods.
The report examined the arrangements at Aurukun State School, which has been the scene of student violence and high staff turnover, along with Hope Vale and Coen State schools, and found that Aurukun enrolments were overstated by 116 places between 2010-2016, which resulted in $815,00 in extra funding.
In a statement released overnight, the Chair of the Cape York partnership, Danny Gilbert, slammed some media outlets reporting on the audit’s findings.
"Contrary to several misleading media headlines, the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) report into the partnership between GGSA and DET released on Thursday clearly articulated the Department of Education and Training’s failure to properly manage the Aurukun school, in particular its finances and enrolments."
"Despite the facts in the QAO report, some media reports continued to erroneously blame enrolment discrepancies on the organisation Noel Pearson co-chairs, Good to Great Schools Australia."
The Aurukun school was being run until November 2016 in an arrangement between the Cape York Partnership, the Queensland Department of Education and Training, and Noel Pearson's Good to Great Schools Australia organisation.
The Queensland Audit Office report found: "no evidence of financial impropriety in the administration of the funding between DET and CYP/GGSA. For this arrangement, we identified poor financial stewardship by DET, breakdowns in its internal controls, and routine non-compliance by its staff with departmental policy and procedures for enrolments."
"The overstatement of effective enrolments was due to poor record-keeping by school staff, who did not understand and comply with DET's enrolment and attendance guidelines and policies."
Writing in the Australian Newspaper yesterday, Mr Pearson, who is a director of the Cape York partnership and a co-chair of GGSA, also accused a number of media outlets of wrongly implying GGSA and CYP were to blame for the enrolment overfunding.
"The report makes clear enrolments are solely the department’s responsibility. GGSA has no involvement in the administration of Academy schools, including enrolment. We provide teaching and learning programs," wrote Mr Pearson.
"That did not stop crazy press banners in some media outlets."
The Queensland DET told NITV it was already working to implement the suggested changes made by the audit report, and emphasised that there were no findings of intentional manipulation of enrolment figures.
"DET fully accepts the three recommendations made in the QAO report and has already commenced implementation," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
"The Queensland Audit Office (QAO) report found that there was no deliberate manipulation of school enrolment numbers and no evidence of financial impropriety in administration of funding between the Department of Education and Training (DET) and Good to Great Schools Australia (GGSA)."