Academy Trust not registered at Companies House gets contract to “sponsor” new schools

Janet Downs's picture
“Carillion Academies Trust is a fresh and innovative model of Trust that will combine educational expertise with business and commercial understanding.”

Carillion plc announcement 17 December 2013

The Department for Education (DfE) must have been impressed with this “fresh and innovative model” because it had already announced Carillion Academies Trust was to sponsor two brand new schools in Tameside.

New schools need building, of course, and construction firms are the obvious candidates. But Carillion and the DfE make it clear the two schools will be sponsored by Carillion Academies Trust. The Trust also appears on the DfE’s list of approved sponsors.

Odd, then, that Carillion Academies Trust doesn’t appear on the Companies House register.

Academy Trusts, as the DfE makes clear, must go through a formal procedure with the Secretary of State which leads to Companies House registration. Each Academy Trust must be a charitable company limited by guarantee. Education Secretary Michael Gove keeps reassuring us that academy trusts are charities which are subject to more accountability through the Education Funding Agency and the Charities Commission.

But it doesn’t appear as if Carillion Academies Trust is such a charity.

Carillion, a multi-million pound construction company, provides infrastructure services to schools and councils. In August 2013, a licence issued to a Carillion subsidiary, Clinicenta, to run a private hospital was revoked following concerns for patient safety. Private Eye (No 1347) said taxpayers had to pay £54m to buy out Clinicenta’s five year contract which had been awarded despite an earlier incident when NHS London terminated Clinicenta’s contract to provide out-of-hospital care.

In September 2013, a Carillion employee falsified test results for water supply at a Devon school. In November 2013, the Health and Safety Executive found Carillion guilty of not complying with “simple safety measures” – the firm’s negligence left a man permanently paralysed.

Carillion plc is one of the construction firms facing a class action in the High Court in connection with blacklisting in the building trade.

A DfE spokesperson told me this morning it was “weird” if an academy trust existed which hadn’t been set up as a charitable company limited by guarantee. Academies had to be sponsored by properly-constituted trusts. A Companies House spokesperson told me they had no record of Carillion Academies Trust.

Yet both Carillion and the DfE say it exists.

This raises the question why the Trust isn’t formally registered. It may be the paperwork’s still in the pipeline but Companies House didn’t think this was the case. It may be the registration is under an obscure name making tracking it down difficult.

But one thing is sure – at the time of writing no charitable trust called Carillion Academies Trust appears to exist. Once again, a question is raised about the connection between academy trusts and for-profit businesses*. And a further question: why does it appear in this case the DfE is breaking its own rules to allow only charitable trusts to run academies?

*See here, here, here and here.
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Chris Curtis's picture
Wed, 05/02/2014 - 12:05

Does Tameside actually NEED two new schools? As a retired teacher ("free at last"), I am in utter despair at Gove's meddling. I don't have grandchildren yet, but I would like to feel that when I do they will have opportunities for a sound education within the state system. My children will not be able to afford a private education, nor will I be able to afford to help them. If Gove isn't stopped, then there will be nothing but the workhouse for them.

John Mountford's picture
Wed, 05/02/2014 - 21:42

Chris, I believe you are well advised to be concerned about the future education prospects for any grandchildren you might eventually have. Like you I am a retired head and there is hardly a day goes by when some revelation or other isn't made about quite alarming developments in education. It seems the rules, often in themselves now lacking moral justification, aren't bent or ignored in order to confer some advantage against the greater interest of society.

I would agree with your comments except for the last. I have become increasingly aware that by focusing on the exploits of the present Secretary of State for education, those with a genuine interest in and commitment to preserving and improving state funded education are missing the point. When the present incumbent moves on in his political career, another politician will be empowered with the right to meddle in education at the expense of children and young people. Our society and the very democratic principles we all hold so highly are under threat because of the way we the people allow short-term political leadership of education governance. The whole system needs revising.

It might seem like an undemocratic proposal, but I argue that we have to decouple the governance of state education from the machinery of party politics. It is not appropriate that every new government has the opportunity every four years or less to determine the long-term destiny of our education service. We have a responsibility to change this outmoded system. If you need further convincing of this, then I offer further argument at

If you agree with my proposal, I invite you to support the campaign to bring about change to the way education reform is managed.

Thanks, too, to Janet for unearthing this latest shameful example of the gross manipulation of authority and the indifference of both our elected representatives and paid public servants to safeguarding the future of state education for all.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sat, 08/02/2014 - 17:22

John is right.

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