Academy trust with principal paid £1,000 per-pupil handed financial notice to improve

Academy trust with principal paid £1,000 per-pupil handed financial notice to improve

An academy trust with a UTC whose former principal earnt £1,000-per pupil has been handed a financial notice to improve.

The Bright Futures Educational Trust, which runs nine schools in the North West of England, has been told it must improve its “weak financial position and financial management” or face closure.

The trust was issued with a financial notice to improve today.

The EFA, in a letter to chief executive Dame Dana Ross-Wawrzynski DBE, said the trust had not achieved a balanced budget and was unable to return its 2014/15 financial statements.

One of its schools includes Wigan UTC. Schools Week’s sister publication FE Week revealed last month that the school was only 14 per cent “full”.

It had 70 pupils this year, despite a capacity for 500.

But figures released to our sister paper FE Week show the college’s former principal – according to the most recent accounts – earnt at least £70,000. It works out as £1,000 per pupil at the school.

The UTC said at the time: “Principals’ salaries are agreed by the governing body and are based on many criteria beyond the number of students, which for a relatively new UTC could be restrictive.”

A spokesperson for the trust said it has since restructured and now does not have a principal.

Bright Futures has now been told to achieve a balanced budget by 2017/18, “so no further requests for financial support are made to the EFA”.

It must also repay an advance of funds it received from the EFA this year to plug finances at Wigan and also The Connell UTC. It must also pay back pupil number adjustments over two years for The Connell.

The trust has been told to conduct an external review, to include looking at whether the governing body “has the right mix of skills and experience to oversee the financial recovery and ensure value for money”.

Sue Baldwin, director of academies and maintained schools, said: “Changes have already been made to strengthen accounting and internal financial controls. However my concerns remain in relation to the weak financial position and financial management at the trust.”

The trust, in a statement issued to Schools Week, said it is “aware of the concerns expressed by the EFA”. “As such, the trust’s executive team and the board of directors are already working closely with them to address their specific issues.

“The EFA’s concerns relate to overfunding regarding student numbers and are not the result of any financial impropriety. A robust repayment schedule has been put forward to run alongside the Trust’s long-term financial strategy.”

Chapel Street Community Schools Trust, which looks after seven schools, has also been handed a financial notice to improve.
The EFA said a request for “urgent additional funding” due to an impending cash flow deficit raised “significant concerns” as it was the second occasion such a request had been made.