EXCLUSIVE: 120 academies change hands in eight months while transfer costs remain hidden
120 academies transferred to other academy trusts in the eight months from 1 May 2016 to 31 December 2016, Freedom of Information reveals.
Around 60 of these transfers appear to be stand-alone academies joining Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) or expanding to become MATs.
Reach4 Academy Trust took over seven academies including four of the six academies operated by Navigate Academies Trust which was dissolved on 3 January 2017 after dropping its schools.
According to the Department for Education, South Tendring Education Partnership (STEP) took over five academies. But there’s no MAT named South Tendring Education Partnership listed at Companies House.
Four of the academies supposedly transferred to STEP were from The Stanway Federation Academy Trust. This ceased trading on 31 August 2016. Stanway Federation accounts for year ending 31 August 2016 said its four academies would be transferred to The Sigma Trust. Accounts for The Sigma Trust confirm Sigma, not STEP, took over Stanway’s academies.
So far, so confusing.
E-Act took over Hareclive Academy from Brunel Primary Academy Trust in September 2016. This was despite Ofsted expressing continuing concern about performance in E-Act academies seven months earlier.
Two academy trusts in Lincolnshire merged: The Boston Witham Academies Federation and The Phoenix Family of Schools Academy Trust (PFAT). The DfE had published a report criticising PFAT in September 2014. Areas of concern included emergency powers given to the Chair and CEO which risked them pursuing ‘personal agendas’. The CEO, Carol Clare, had already been suspended and subsequently resigned. The Chair, Denzil Shepheard, resigned shortly after the report’s publication. However, PFAT’s accounts for year ended 31 August 2016 show Shepheard remains a member of the Trust. His wife, Carole Shepheard, is a trustee of Boston Witham Academies Federation.
CfBT dropped another of its Lincolnshire academies. Sir John Gleed Academy, which had been judged Inadequate twice under CfBT’s watch, was taken over by an unknown MAT according to the DfE. The unnamed MAT, which I knew was South Lincolnshire Academies Trust (SLAT), renamed the school Spalding Academy in the hope it would herald a new beginning. Unfortunately Ofsted didn’t know this and turned up at the Academy within just a few weeks of SLAT taking over. Inspectors acknowledged the academy had received ‘extensive support’ from SLAT’s lead school, Bourne Academy, and systems used successfully at Bourne had been ‘rapidly introduced’. But inspectors wrote ‘little of the school has improved since the previous inspection in March 2015’ and judged it Inadequate*.
Quite how a new MAT is supposed to overturn inherited problems in just six weeks is unknown. Perhaps Ofsted should use some common sense in such situations.
What we do not know is how much money these transfers cost the taxpayer. The DfE isn’t saying and it can put off publishing academy transfer costs indefinitely. This isn’t good enough. The number of transferred academies will continue to grow. Taxpayers have a right to know what this costs.
*The report for Spalding Academy isn’t on Ofsted’s website. I had to do an internet search to find it. Sir John Gleed's reports have disappeared. History is erased when Ofsted reports are deleted when schools become academies or academies change hands.