Academies Enterprise Trust stripped of two more schools

Academies Enterprise Trust stripped of two more schools

The country’s largest academy chain has been stripped of two schools – and is in talks about rebrokering more – despite recently hinting at expansion following a government ban on taking over new schools.

Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) will rebroker Everest Community Academy, in Basingstoke, and Cordeaux Academy, in Lincolnshire, in September at the request of their relevant regional schools commissioners.

The trust was put on the Department for Education’s (DfE) “pause list” five years ago – meaning they were not allowed to sponsor new schools – after running into trouble following quick expansion in the early years of the academy programme.

The chain grew rapidly to run 74 academies, but had to offload eight schools from December 2014 to April 2015 after government intervention.

AET has been taken off the “pause list” this year, and was again considering expansion following a leadership overhaul.

But Schools Week has now learned the trust has been told to rebroker both Everest and Cordeaux academies.

A trust spokesperson added that “further discussions” are under way with the DfE concerning a “small number of other AET academies, yet to be confirmed”, meaning more of its schools could also be rebrokered to other academy trusts.

A spokesperson for the trust said the rebroker changes will allow AET to “focus its resources and attention on those schools where the organisation believes it can most add value, and to expand in areas of strength while addressing areas of historical weakness”.

She added it will also enable the DfE to bring in other sponsors where they believe “there are strong strategic reasons for this, or where AET is not considered to have been delivering improvement fast enough; or in other cases, to adjust the provision of school places in areas of over-capacity”.

AET confirmed today that Everest will transfer to Bourne Education Trust, taking effect from September 1, while Cordeaux will be taken over by Tollbar Multi-Academy Trust on the same date.

Both schools were given ‘requires improvement’ ratings from Ofsted last year.

AET is also currently engaged in a consultation regarding proposals to close down the ‘requires improvement’ rated Sandown Bay Academy, on the Isle of Wight.

Under the plans, pupils at the school would transfer to another AET academy – Ryde Academy, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. But parents and councillors have heavily opposed the plan.

Despite the transferring of existing academies, AET claims it is “preparing” to bring a number of primary schools into the trust.

The spokesperson said AET has had a “troubled history”, but is going through a “strong turnaround” and is preparing for a financial notice to improve to be removed, alongside being taken off the DfE’s ‘pause list’.

Three new trustees were appointed to the chain’s board last week, which followed the appointment of Jack Boyer as chair of the organisation last year, and Julian Drinkall who became chief executive in January this year.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with AET to ensure all pupils in the trust are supported to achieve their potential. This includes looking at the structure, performance and capacity of the trust as a whole, as well as individual schools.

“The Regional Schools Commissioners and the trust have agreed that Everest Community Academy and Cordeaux Academy should move to a different sponsors. We are working with all parties to ensure a smooth transition.”