PRWeek revealed that Ormiston academy chain was tendering for up to a £1 million of comms support over the next three years for a brief that includes reputation management, media relations and crisis management.
The story was subsequently picked up across mainstream media outlets, including The Times, TES and The Sun.
And by Monday, Melanie Onn, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, whose constituency contains one of Ormiston’s academies, was questioning Gibb over the matter in Parliament.
She said: "[It was] reported last week that Ormiston Academies Trust is seeking to hire a public relations agency for up to £900,000 to deal with reputational management. Does the minister think that parents will consider that a good use of Government funding or that that money should be spent on the school?"
Separately, the story has also incurred the ire of the Southern branch of the GMB Union.
Paul Maloney, GMB Southern regional secretary, said: "To spend nearly a million pounds on a PR firm for ‘reputation management services’ is a scandalous waste of money that should be better spent on children’s education."
In response to the Labour MP’s question, Gibb said: "Academies face much greater financial scrutiny than local authority schools. They have to produce annual audited accounts, whereas local authority schools do not, and the Education Funding Agency scrutinises closely, on a quarterly basis, the funding and expenditure of academies and multi-academy trusts."
Speaking last week, a spokesperson for Ormiston Academies Trust said the amount cited on the tender document was the "very upper limit", adding: "This is to provide long-term flexibility, but we do not anticipate spending this much."
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