Bexhill High Academy was one of the six academies left without a sponsor when Prospects Academies Trust decided to wind up its operations.
But now it’s found a new sponsor
: a trust run by Kent businessman, Tom Attwood.
The interim principal of Bexhill High told parents
“This is so exciting for Bexhill High it is untrue. If you feel sceptical don’t. If you feel slightly uncomfortable by business people taking over schools, again I would ask you not to. That is what the government wants, and it can, and does, work.”
“This is what the government wants” are not words which inspire confidence. And sponsorship by businesses or charitable trusts is not a magic bullet as numerous LSN threads and Henry Stewart’s incisive analyses show.
Bexhill High School was judged Satisfactory in January 2011. A monitoring report in March 2012 found the school had made good progress towards making improvements and the local authority (LA) had provided satisfactory support.
The school converted to academy status in November 2012 with Prospects Academies Trust (PAT). Questions remain
over whether Lord Hill, the then schools minister, ignored civil servants’ advice not to let PAT sponsor academies.
Ofsted judged Bexhill High to be Inadequate in February 2013. A year later, Ofsted said Bexhill was making reasonable progress towards removal of special measures. In March 2014, Edward Timpson, the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Children and Families, announced PAT was “paused”
from taking on more academies following concerns about performance. PAT decided to give up its academies.
The Department for Education (DfE) told Bexhill the Attwood Educational Trust was its preferred sponsor
to take over the school from PAT. This is puzzling because no such Trust is registered with Companies House or with the Charities Commission. However, a “spokesman” for the Trust said Attwood Educational Foundation was looking forward to working with Bexhill. But no organisation called Attwood Educational Foundation is registered at Companies House or with the Charities Commission.
One organisation that is registered at Companies House and with the Charities Commission is The Attwood Academies Trust. But the Trust doesn’t appear on the latest DfE list of approved sponsors. Neither does it appear to have a website so it’s difficult to discover how experienced the Trust is in delivering education.
Tom Attwood is a director of The Attwood Academies Trust. He was previously a director of The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) until August 2013. In October 2013, the DfE sent warning letters to TKAT about “unacceptably low standards of performance” at two of its academies. Six of TKAT’s academies are currently being inspected as part of a co-ordinated Ofsted swoop
It appears, then, the DfE has recommended a Trust (or Foundation) with the name of Attwood in its title but it doesn’t appear to have a website or any known experience of running schools under that name. And one of its directors was previously connected with a large, rapidly-expanding academy chain which is subject to “a multi-inspection blitz”
This situation highlights problems for academies which are in academy chains. Not only are they potentially more likely to be controlled by central office in a way which hasn’t been seen in LA schools for decades (if ever) but they can be closed, amalgamated or moved to another sponsor without consultation. They can be abandoned if the academy chain decides to wind up.
Parents whose schools are still under the stewardship of LAs could be breathing a sigh of relief.
NOTE: The DfE list of approved sponsors can be downloaded here