WS refutes Observer report on DfES funding row

Weber Shandwick has defended its work for the Department for Education & Skills, following a story in Sunday’s Observer stating it ‘faces being dragged into the row over funding of city academies’.

WS corporate director Marcus Smith said the agency's £2.5m account with the department was 'absolutely not just about selling academies [to business]'. He said it covered a 'range of work', with the 'focus on skills provision, enterprise and people's employability' – and that it aimed to 'help the department better understand business'.

He refused to disclose how many academy sponsors it had secured, adding that none of WS's existing clients had signed up. The agency won the brief last year (PRWeek, 8 April 2005).

Smith denied speculation that WS director D-J Collins, a former DfES head of news and strategic planning, played a significant role on the account. The agency had since recruited Tom Curry, also from the DfES. Collins is poised to quit for Google (PRWeek, 14 April).

Scotland Yard had not called on WS to assist its inquiry into allegations of city academy 'funds for honours' as PRWeek went to press. WS's contract is for three years rather than two, as The Observer reported.

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