Telford trust winds up after poor Ofsted inspections

A new sponsor has stepped in to support the leaders of a multi-academy trust after its four schools were put in special measures within a week.

But a deal for the Community Academies Trust (CAT) to permanently take over the Telford schools from Telford Co-Operative Multi-Academy Trust (TCMAT), has yet to be signed off.

CAT is now consulting with stakeholders, visiting the schools and analysing TCMAT’s financial position. It is hopeful of taking over in September.

TCMAT has already agreed to wind up, but will only do so when a new sponsor is agreed. Accounts show that it will run out of money by June, but the Education Funding Agency (EFA) has agreed to “ensure the financial position remains stable” during the transition.

Philip Hamilton, executive headteacher of CAT, told Schools Week: “It’s a challenging time for the schools and with the Ofsted inspections there is now an added pressure. So we are supporting the trust while we carry out due diligence.”

TCMAT’s four academies – three of which were rated good by Ofsted before they converted in 2013 – were all put into special measures last week.

The inspections, which followed GCSE results falling below the 40 per cent government floor target, highlighted low pupil attainment and a failure to ensure adequate progress.

Phoenix Academy and Lakeside Academy were rated inadequate across the board. Sutherland Business and Enterprise College and Wrockwardine Wood Arts Academy – due to merge and open in new premises in September – were rated inadequate in all areas apart from behaviour and pupil safety, which inspectors said required improvement.

Peter Lawley, chairman of TCMAT, said: “The task for us as lay directors was just too great with the many concerns about structures, accountability and a certain lack of co-operation in getting four schools into one common structure.

“There was no outstanding school to lead, three schools with falling numbers of pupils, two schools merging and two brand new school buildings being built.”

The trust was set up by the principals of each school in March 2013.

TCMAT’s annual accounts state they were approached and advised during academisation by Telford and Wrekin Council.

The local authority’s cabinet member for young people and children, Paul Watling, was made director and Jim Collins, the council’s director of education, attended meetings in an advisory capacity.

According to the accounts, the council’s involvement was noted as “unusual” by both the Department for Education (DfE) and the funding agency.

Both men cut their ties with the trust following the poor Ofsted results. The council said the board was taking difficult decisions and, as a result, it decided to have no further direct involvement.

The DfE and the regional schools commissioner are now working closely with the schools and have asked The Streetly Academy, in Walsall, and Wood Green Academy, Sandwell, to help to improve standards.