Academy trust linked to minister clashes with council over free school closure
Free school run by Floreat Education Academies Trust closed at the end of term
Floreat Brentford, a primary free school, opened in September 2015 in temporary accommodation on the ground floor of eight-story Trico House, Brentford. The school’s buildings were originally to be sited on the Brent Lea Recreation Ground but this was changed at the last minute following a public backlash.
FEAT founded by Lord Shaughnessy, junior minister for health, and former Cameron adviser
Floreat Brentford was set up by Floreat Education Academies Trust (FEAT), a small multi-academy trust (MAT) which now has two primary schools* and two more in the pipeline. It was founded by James (now Lord) O’Shaughnessy, junior minister for health, Government Whip in the Lords and former adviser to David Cameron. He supports allowing for-profit education providers to run schools.
Former directors include Ofsted chief and former Gove adviser
Closure announced in January after meeting with schools’ minister Lord Agnew
Council and FEAT blame each other
Hounslow Council and FEAT blamed each other for the closure . The Council issued a strongly-worded statement saying it was FEAT and the Department for Education who were responsible. In a separate press release, the Council, which is now responsible for finding alternative places for 70 school children, said ‘this is another case of the Government’s free school model failing and letting down our children, which is unacceptable to us.’
FEAT’s financial woes apparent earlier
FEAT indicated it was struggling in October 2017 when it started to investigate plans to join another MAT. A proposed merger with Avanti did not go ahead and FEAT has announced it will continue as an independent trust.
But problems with FEAT may have been present before Autumn 2016. Company house records show FEAT issued a notice for compulsory strike-off on 22 March 2016. This was withdrawn four days later.
FEAT says it’s important to maintain private donations and grants
FEAT's accounts for year ending 31 August 2017 said it was 'important that the trust maintains its further sources of funding including private donations, project grants and school pre-opening grants'. This is an admission by a government minister that government education funding is inadequate.
FEAT is sponsored by the charity Floreat Education. Its accounts for year ending 31 August 2017 (available from the Charities Commission) said it received income of £379,934 in the year ending 31 August 2017. It spent £83,139 of this.
*For some unknown reason, Floreat Wandsworth and Floreat Montague, are not free schools but sponsored academies. Floreat Brentford was FEAT’s only free school.