Academies slated for finances still on DfE approved sponsor list

Janet Downs's picture

SchoolsCompany Trust and Bright Tribe included

It might be expected that academy trusts criticised for their finances would have their names removed from the Department for Education’s approved sponsor list.

But that isn’t the case.

The list (downloadable here ) was updated on 14 September but still contains names of academy trusts subject to open Financial Notices to Improve (FNtI) or which have been investigated by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and found wanting.

The now-notorious Bright Tribe and its associated company Adventure Learning Academies Trust were criticised in an ESFA review two years ago.  They were recently featured in a Panorama investigation into the misallocation of money intended for capital improvements.  But Bright Tribe and ALAT are still named as approved academy sponsors.

Ongoing investigations don’t prevent inclusion

The SchoolsCompany, which is being stripped of all its academies, also appears.  ESFA is currently investigating the Trust.  Preliminary investigations by the Interim Board now running the trust reveal a grim picture.

Open FNtIs don’t prevent inclusion

Other trusts with live FNtIs named as approved sponsors include:

Stanton Lane Trust which sponsors The Basildon Academies.

Bright Futures Educational Trust

Chapel Street Community Schools Trust

The De La Salle Order which sponsors De LA Salle Academy Trust

Plymouth CAST, which runs 35 academies in the South West

The University of Chester Academies Trust

Rodillian Multi Academy

An FNtI doesn’t stop a trust taking over more schools

You would expect that trusts sent an FNtI would be stopped from taking over schools in its pipeline.  But The Heath Family Trust wasn’t prevented from taking over Litherland Moss Primary School, Liverpool, in September after it was served with its FNtI on 1 June.  ESFA said the Trust had ‘failed to set a balanced budget for 2017/18 onwards and failed to establish strong internal financial controls.’

Trusts stripped of academies still have approved sponsor status

St Neots Learning Partnership (SNLP) was stripped of its academies after receiving a FNtI.  Its schools were transferred to Astrea in September but SNLP is still listed as having approved sponsor status.

I didn’t expect to see Perry Beeches The Academy Trust on the list.  But it’s there despite all five of its academies having been rebrokered after the financial scandal of two years ago.  

Two investigations and one FNtI don’t prevent inclusion

A surprising inclusion in the approved academy sponsor list is Silver Birch Academy.  It’s been investigated twice by ESFA in four years and sent a Financial Notice to Improve in June.   Silver Birch has had a ‘turbulent few months’, Warwick Mansell writes.  One of its primary schools was inspected in April but the report’s only just been published.  It was rated inadequate having been outstanding before Silver Birch took it over. 

It’s nearly five years since I first wrote about inaccuracies in the DfE’s approved sponsor list.   It appears nothing has changed.

 ADDENDUM 20 September 2018 09.05.   I omitted TBAP from the above list.  It's financial difficulties were known months before it was issued with an FNtI in August.  But the DfE still allowed TBAP to take over more schools.   See Schools Week.


Financial Notices to Improve downloadable here

Academy investigation reports downloadable here

Academy financial management and governance reviews downloadable here


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Celia Blair's picture
Thu, 20/09/2018 - 08:52

Does the DfE provide any explanation of why some academy schools are defined as "charitable sector"?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 20/09/2018 - 09:21

Celia - some academy trusts like ARK and AET seem to have been classified as 'charitable sector' because they were trusts which sponsored academies during the Labour era when charitable trusts or individuals were encouraged to sponsor academies.  Some individual names still appear as approved sponsors eg Charles Dunstone and David Meller (despite The Presidents' Club scandal) and are classified as 'charitable sector'.

That's not the whole explanation.  Another reason is that the trusts classifed as 'charitable sector' weren't from a particular school/academy but set up as a charity in order to establish schools (eg Floreat).  Some were existing charitable trusts such as Haberdashers'. 

But that's not consistent because some of the 'charitable sector' did have roots in individual academies (eg TKAT).

86 of the 1133 approved academy sponsors are classified as 'charitable sector'.

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