The LA used to do all that stuff, says CEO of trust told to improve its Finances

Janet Downs's picture

Perry Beeches, Birmingham, a favourite academy of Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary and equally praised by his successor Nicky Morgan, has been served with a Financial Notice to Improve.

The Academy Trust runs five academies and free schools in Birmingham.  Two of the Trust’s academies are Outstanding but Perry Beeches III was judged Inadequate in May 2015.    Inspectors recommended a review of governance and the school’s use of Pupil Premium and catch-up funding.

Monitoring of Perry Beeches III in December shows the school is taking effective action to remove special measures but yesterday came news that Perry Beeches Academies Trust has been issued with a Financial Notice to Improve.   The letter isn’t on the Department for Education’s website yet but a television report gives details (about 9 mins, 30 secs in)

The Trust has been criticised for its lack of understanding of such things as contracts, services, tax law and employment law.  These had been handled centrally when Perry Beeches had been a community school under the stewardship of the local authority, Liam Nolan, Perry Beeches CEO, said.

Nolan told the BBC he is now giving up the business side of running the multi-academy trust (MAT). 

‘I’m not a business manager, I’m a headteacher,’ he told the programme.

Academy conversion was sold (and still is sold) as bringing freedom and autonomy.  Perry Beeches chose this route in April 2012 and was quick to open its first free school, Perry Beeches II five months later.  The MAT grew further until it reached its present size.

But the extra autonomy doesn’t amount to much – non-academies can do most things academies can do.  And non-academies don’t have to grapple with the legal, administrative and financial burdens of being both a charitable trust and a company.  Non-academies are free from such responsibilities and can concentrate on education.  This is what Liam Nolan belatedly says he wishes to do.

The Government’s latest White Paper requires all schools to become academies by 2022.  It wants ‘great leaders’ to come forward to run MATs.  Liam Nolan was hailed as just such a great leader but he’s honest enough to admit he didn’t have the acumen to run a MAT.  Nevertheless, Perry Beeches Academies Trust proposes to expand further.

In the circumstances it seems unwise to allow a multi-academy trust already struggling with its finances and with a school in special measures to run two more schools.

UPDATE 24 March 2016 11.34   Perry Beeches III appeared as a case study in the 2012/13 Academies Annual Report, the DfE's yearly puff piece about academies.  That was before Perry Beeches III was judged Inadequate.   The Financial Notice to Improve still hasn't appeared on the DfE website.

 UPDATE 24 March 2016 13.48   Schools Week reports on the Financial Notice to Improve which is now released.  Seems rather more serious than we were led to believe from the BBC interview




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cass's picture
Wed, 23/03/2016 - 19:26

Great piece. Why oh why are more of us not challenging the flailing mess of bullying incompetence known as Academisation? You lose central control, you lose parity of esteem and shared expertise. You lose excellent and experienced staff. The LEAs just needed more money. What [edited] Dave has done is despicable...selling off oir state schools to companies with no educational expertise and, often, links to Tories. The public land has been sold into private hands. Parents are no longer given a say as Governors. You trusts Tories, you gets sold out...

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 24/03/2016 - 11:43

Public land hasn't actually been sold to private companies.   Academies which were previously local authority land lease the land from the LA on a 125 year lease for a peppercorn rent.  Foundation schools which convert usually owned the land on which they stood.  The picture becomes complicated with church schools  - many are on church-owned land, while some are not.  With free schools, however, the DfE can donate land to the charitable trust behind the school.  It does so by raising a 'charge' in favour of the Secretary of State so the trust can purchase freehold.  You can find which trusts have charges by searching the Companies House website.  Ownership of the freehold is with the trust but the land can't be disposed of without the permission of the SoS.  It's unclear who would receive any profit from sale of such land once any charge had been cleared - I've submitted evidence to the Education Select Committee about the ownership of land by multi-academy trusts.  Perhaps they will investigate this anomaly. 

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