Is Sabres Educational Trust just a “powerless conduit” for the DfE to send money to Swedish for-profit chain IES, asks the Eye

Janet Downs's picture
When Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES), the Swedish firm running many of Sweden’s free schools, was awarded the contract to run a proposed free school in Brandon, Suffolk, the Daily Telegraph welcomed the move and congratulated Education Secretary Michael Gove for acting “unobtrusively in paving the way for English state schools to be run for profit.

IES announced the partnership with a fulsome welcome to the principal-designate, Sherry Zand, and quoted the area’s MP, Matthew Hancock, now Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, who said IES was the “best in the world”.

Since then, IES has been taken over by US-based private equity fund TA Associates and Sherry Zand resigned this term following the exit of some staff members from the free school, IES Breckland.

PrivateEye (13-20 December 2013) wrote about growing concerns by locals that the Sabres Educational Trust, the charitable trust behind the school, is “little more than a powerless conduit for the Department for Education (DfE) to pay IES”.

In other words, the Trust which is ultimately responsible for IES Breckland has no clout when it comes to running the school.

Private Eye tried to find information about Sabres Educational Trust by looking at its website.  But its website is no more – it’s just a holding page.  Clicking on the link to the Trust’s “Main Page” doesn’t work.

Recently Fiona Millar highlighted Bau Foundation/Mentora Academies Trust which had links with a chain operating private schools in Turkey in which the Carlyle Group had a 48% stake.   I asked in August whether some charitable trusts running academies were actually “vehicles” for shareholders in a linked for-profit company to make a return on their investment.    Now there are suspicions that Sabres Educational Trust is just such a “vehicle” for a Swedish education provider owned by a US Private Equity firm.

However, Sabres Educational Trust may still have some involvement with the school it set up.  The school’s November newsletter says the Trust will provide the school with a Christmas tree.
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