Kathy Kirkham resigns as chief executive of Bright Tribe

Kathy Kirkham resigns as chief executive of Bright Tribe

The chief executive of Bright Tribe academy trust, Kathy Kirkham, has resigned.

Kirkham has stood down from her role heading the academy trust following a turbulent few months – including a government investigation and the trust pulling out of sponsoring two struggling schools.

A Bright Tribe spokesperson said the move was long-planned, with Kirkham having worked alongside Mary McKeeman, now appointed as her successor, for “some time”.

It has always been the intention of Kathy Kirkham to see the trust to a certain point

Kirkham, a former head of free schools at the Education Funding Agency, will continue to work for the trust as a consultant in an “advisory capacity”.

McKeeman steps up from school improvement director at Bright Tribe. The trust’s website says McKeeman has a “proven track record of bringing about rapid and sustainable improvement” since joining in 2015 – boosting the overall percentage of pupils achieving A* to C by eight per cent.

The website reads: “Mary advocates a ‘no excuses’ and ‘high expectations’ culture and aims to ensure schools do absolutely everything possible to remove barriers so that young people can develop self-esteem, good mental health, resilience, make progress and achieve academically and socially, and for them to find a place of belonging within the community and the world.”

A Bright Tribe spokesperson added: “It has always been the intention of Kathy Kirkham to see the trust to a certain point before aiding the transition to a new chief operating officer Mary McKeeman, which she has been doing for some time.

“Mary McKeeman has a track record as a successful executive principal and principal with a background in school improvement.”

Schools Week revealed in December that Bright Tribe had pulled out of sponsoring two struggling schools in the north of England – despite being given extra funds to sponsor such schools by the government as part of its northern academy hub scheme. Although the Durham schools did not form part of this funding.

The decision to walk away was over financial viability concerns.

In November, one of the trust’s own schools was put into special measures, with school staff issuing a vote of no confidence in the academy chain.

A government investigation, published earlier that month, found Bright Tribe, and another trust also founded by sponsor venture capitalist Michael Dwan, called the Adventures Learning Academies Trust, had breached rules over payments to trustees.

The investigation found nearly 80 per cent of trustees at the trusts had related-party transactions – above rules permitting no more than half.

However no financial notice to improve was issued. Bright Tribe said at the time it would continue to “positively work with the EFA to ensure we remain fully transparent in all of our financial activities”, adding it now had a “fully operating in-house model for support services”.