Guidance

How ESFA handles whistleblowing disclosures

Information about how the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) handles whistleblowing disclosures about academies and post-16 providers.

Introduction

Whistleblowing is the disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the whistleblower, is made in the public interest. Whisteblowing disclosures tend to show that one or more of the following has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur:

  • a criminal offence (this may include, for example, types of financial impropriety such as fraud)
  • a breach of a legal obligation
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • danger to the health or safety of any individual
  • damage to the environment
  • deliberate covering up of wrongdoing in the above categories

Your employer is required to have appropriate whistleblowing procedures in place that ensure that concerns are handled properly and fairly.

Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), you may be protected if you are a worker raising a concern in the public interest that falls into one of the categories listed above.

Anyone can complain or make a disclosure to ESFA about an education provider. However, PIDA protects workers who make a disclosure to a prescribed person or body where the worker reasonably believes that:

  • the disclosure falls within the remit of the prescribed person or body
  • the information and any allegations are substantially true

This means in certain circumstances, specifically where the disclosure is a public interest concern (as per the definition above), the same protections may apply as they would if whistleblowing directly to their employer. This means you would be protected from dismissal or detriment (unfair action taken by your employer, including punitive action) as a result of making a disclosure.

If you are unsure whether the Public Interest Disclosure Act will protect you, you can contact Public Concern at Work (tel: 020 7404 6609).

How to make a disclosure to ESFA

To complain or make a disclosure about an academy trust or free school, please use the contact form.

To complain or make a disclosure about a post-16 education or training provider, please email ESFA’s Customer Service Team or send a letter to:

Customer Service Team
Education and Skills Funding Agency
Cheylesmore House
Quinton Road
Coventry CV1 2WT

Confidentiality

Unless we are under a legal obligation to do so, we will not share your personal details with any third party without first obtaining your consent. We also owe a duty of confidentiality to others and may not be able to share details of the investigation with you.

Anonymity

You can disclose information anonymously. You should bear in mind that this may make it harder for you to benefit from the protections of PIDA. This is because an anonymous disclosure may make it difficult to show that any detriment you may experience has occurred because you have made a disclosure. Making an anonymous disclosure may also make it harder for ESFA to conduct an investigation.

How ESFA handles whistleblowing disclosures

Once we receive the disclosure, we will send an acknowledgement and confirm that we will not contact you unless we need further information for any investigation we may carry out.

It is our policy not to enter into a dialogue with whistleblowers once we have started a formal investigation. This is to ensure we protect the whistleblower’s confidentiality and, where relevant, anonymity. It also ensures that we do nothing that could potentially undermine the legitimacy of the outcome of any investigation we may carry out.

We will gather information and, depending on the nature of the disclosure, we may refer the case to another organisation (for example, Ofsted or the police). Where allegations are well founded, we will look to hold individuals and organisations to account. Our follow up actions can include:

  • publishing an investigation report in line with our investigation publishing policy
  • referring to the police for consideration of criminal sanctions
  • referring to regulatory bodies including the Charity Commission and Insolvency Service
  • recovery of funds and contract termination
Published 19 June 2019