Thirteen free schools taken over by new trusts in 2017/18: Part One

Janet Downs's picture

Thirteen of the 172 academies transferred in the financial year 2017/18 were free schools.  There are some familiar names among them.  Eight of the thirteen are detailed below:

Four moved from the failed Perry Beeches Academy Trust, a former flagship trust once held up as an example for other schools to follow.  EXTRA (added 15 February 2018):  ARK schools received £200k in transfer fees for taking over Perry Beeches V - The All-through Family School (now ARK Academy Victoria).

Aspire Academy, an alternative provision free school opened in September 2014, transferred at the request of Aspire Academy Trust (Harlow) who admitted in its accounts* it lacked the capacity to run the school as a single academy.   Aspire Academy was taken over by TBAP despite TBAP’s financial difficulties being known.  Schools Week understood Aspire (now TBAP Aspire AP Academy) would be ‘returned for the next round of bidding’ but it’s not known if this is happening.  TBAP has been stopped from taking on any more schools.

Channeling Positivity, another alternative provision free school opened in September 2015, closed for a ‘fresh start’ on 28 February 2018.  It’s transfer, the Department for Education says, was triggered by ‘intervention’ but Channelling Positivity accounts* (y/e 1 March 2018) don’t appear to support this.   The trustees wanted to move the school into a larger trust.  The school required improvement: it was not inadequate which could have triggered intervention.   The re-opened free school has been renamed CP Riverside School.

Ealing Fields High School, a secondary free school opened by a parent-led group in September 2016, transferred to Twyford Church of England Academies Trust just a year later at the request of Ealing Fields Academy Trust.

Grindon Hall Christian School has had six turbulent years since the former independent school became a state-funded free school.  It was transferred to Bright Tribe, a trust which gained notoriety after being exposed on BBC’s Panorama**.  Despite this disgrace, Bright Tribe and associated trust Adventure Learning still appear on the DfE’s approved sponsor list (updated December 2018) together with Perry Beeches (see above).

Details of the remaining five transferred free schools will be disclosed in a future article.


UPDATE 15 February 2018:  The title has been changed to show the article was the first part of a series of two articles.


*Accounts available from Companies House or trusts’ websites.

**Michael Dwan, sponsor of Bright Tribestrenuously denies Panorama’s allegations on the website of one of his companies, Equity Solutions.  His rebuttal says ‘connected company relationships’, ie related party transactions, had been investigated by the Education Funding Agency ‘who found no concerns of financial mismanagement’.    This is not what EFA said in its investigation of Bright Tribe and Adventure Learning Academies Trust:

‘…certain related party transactions were not disclosed, in the annual financial statements [2013/4 and 2014/15], for example sub contracted expenditure to connected parties.’

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