Sir Peter Birkett is a British educator and entrepreneur, who until December 2013 was the CEO of UK and Europe for GEMS Education. Birkett was Knighted in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to further education and the academy movement.
In October 2013, Barnfield Federation came under investigation by the Department for Education and the Skills Funding Agency for 'grade massaging,' whilst the Luton branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) expressed concern that the federation might have tried to take on too many schools too quickly.
In November 2013 Birkett collected the national Education Investor award for the best performing "School operator – academy chain" on behalf of Barnfield Federation.
In December 2013, Birkett resigned from GEMS Education UK, saying that the Department for Education investigation of the Barnfield Federation had "achieved prominence in the press" to stop the issue becoming "an undue distraction for my colleagues and the work of GEMS Education." In Oxfordshire, his resignation led to concerns about GEMS Learning Trust, the not-for-profit arm of GEMS Education Solutions which had been selected to run schools on a new estate. A spokeswoman however said that Birkett had no responsibility for GEMS Learning Trust.
In February 2014 the BBC claimed to have seen a Skills Funding Agency report into Barnfield College including details of Birkett's resignation settlement. The final report -a review of the management and governance at Barnfield Federation was published the same month and found "evidence of significant financial irregularity together with breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook, the Funding Agreement, Charity Commission regulation and the Companies Act 2006." It also noted items of academies’ expenditure which were "irregular and improper, not for the purpose intended and do not provide value for money of public funds." However the names of all individual directors and local firms in the report were redacted. The BBC report said that the college had wrongly claimed almost £1m for “students it could not account for” and that the terms of Birkett’s resignation constituted improper use of funds.
In January 2015 Birkett once again denied responsibility for the problems at Barnfield college saying it was in fact an example of “good practice” though Luton MP Gavin Shuker claimed he had starved the college of resources. The academy chain was split up. As of 2015, Birkett has become managing director of p5e.
- The London Gazette: . 16 June 2012.
- Birthday Honours List 2012
- "Barnfield Federation investigated over 'grade massaging'". BBC news. 29 October 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- "Education Investor Awards 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- "Press Releases:Peter Birkett steps down as Chief Executive of GEMS Education UK and Europe". GEMS Education. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- Freddie Whittaker (30 December 2013). "Concern raised over sponsor for Didcot schools". Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- "Barnfield College 'wrongly claimed' £1m of funding". BBC News. 26 February 2014.
- "Review of financial management and governance at Barnfield Federation" (PDF). www.gov.uk. February 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Stephen Exley (23 January 2015). "Sir Peter Birkett: 'Barnfield College troubles not my fault'". tes.co.uk. Retrieved 12 June 2015.