EXCLUSIVE: Fourteen academies bailed-out in 2016/17 - but five still closed down

Janet Downs's picture

£4m in grants awarded - and they don't have to be repaid

Over four million pounds in total was given to fourteen struggling academies and University Technical Colleges (UTCs) in grants to stabilise their finances in financial year 2016/17, Freedom of Information shows.  

Five of these have now closed.  They are:

Daventry UTC received £65k.  It was issued with a Financial Notice to Improve (FNtI) in April 2016 and closed in August 2017. 

Greater Manchester Sustainable Engineering UTC, run by Bright Tribe, received £241k.  Bright Tribe was investigated by the Education Funding Agency (now Education and Skills Funding Agency, ESFA) in 2015/2016.   The belatedly-published report found areas of concern but considered these did not merit a FNtI’.  But other trusts had been slapped with a FNtI for less.

Manchester Evening News found the UTC, which cost £9m to build and was maintained by Blue Support Services, a company run by Michael Dwan**, whose companies Adventure Learning Schools and Helping Hands Trust were members of Bright Tribe until 6 July 2018, had ‘missing fire doors, malfunctioning lifts and an array of other defects’ costing £150k to fix.   

Schools Week reported that Bright Tribe’s Minutes from early 2016 show the trust had applied to open a free school to replace the UTC long before closure was announced.   

Bright Tribe is reported to have decided to close.

Sherwood Academy received £486,259.  Previously Sherwood E-Act Academy, it transferred to Redhill Academy Trust on 1 April 2015 after profligate E-Act was told to lose some of its academies.     Sherwood closed on 31 August 2016.  The transfer doesn’t appear to be on the academy transfer list so it’s not known how much rebrokerage, if any, was paid. 

The Baverstock Academy received £113k.  Baverstock was the only academy run by LEAP Academy Trust which received a FNtI in November 2015.  Accounts for year ending 31/8/17 say LEAP ‘relied upon exceptional loan funding’ from ESFA.  This is ‘technically repayable’ but LEAP will ask for these loans to be written off ‘to enable a solvent liquidation during 2018'.  Loans revealed in the accounts were £943k (2016/17) and £213k (2015/16).  In addition, nearly £27k (2017) and £19.5k (2016) in undistributed 16-19 bursary funds are repayable to ESFA.  Baverstock closed in August 2017 despite a petition to save it. 

UTC Lancashire received £56k.  Costing £9.5m to build, it closed in August 2017.

The now defunct Lilac Sky Schools Academies Trust and one of its schools received a total of over £600k.  And the SchoolCompany Trust received nearly £705k.  United Learning Trust, a large and still expanding multi-academy trust, received nearly £686k. 

I shall write about these and other trusts receiving grants to support financial recovery in a forthcoming post.

**CORRECTION 10 September 2018 10.12.  The original article said A Dwan was a member and trustee of Bright Tribe.  This was incorrect.  A Dwan was not a member or trustee.  However, two companies run by Michael Dwan (aka Alfred Michael Dwan),  Adventure Learning Schools and Helping Hands Trust Limited , were members of Bright Tribe and were named as people 'with significant control' at Companies House until 6 July 2018 when Bright Tribe's board was replaced.  The Helping Hands Trust Limited includes four members of the Dwan family as directors: Alfed Michael, Amanda Jane, Jessica Phoebe and Olivia.

NOTE: The Department for Education refused a similar request for details of grants given to academy trusts to stabilise their finances in 2017/18.  I have written to say there is no reason to refuse this request as information for 2016/17 has been released. 

CORRECTION 12 March 2019: The original article referred to LEAP Academy Trust accounts year ending 31/8/18.  This should have read 31/8/17.  It has now been corrected.


*All accounts from Companies House

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