Two for-profit sponsors back out of academy market

Two for-profit sponsors back out of academy market

Two academy trusts set up by for-profit providers that have made millions running schools across the globe have ended their sponsorship of English academies.

The Erudition Schools Trust is in liquidation after its three schools in the Midlands were rebrokered to new trusts last year.

Erudition was sponsored by K12, a firm founded by a former Goldman Sachs executive, Ron Packard, and a former US education secretary, William Bennett. It sells virtual schooling in the US.

The trust’s collapse follows that of the Learning Schools Trust, which relinquished control of its four schools in 2015-16 and is also
being wound-up.

The Learning trust was sponsored by Kunskapsskolan, a private firm that runs schools in Sweden. It listed former education secretary Michael Gove as a “huge admirer”.

The for-profits have been temporarily eclipsed by the non-profit chains with heavy philanthropic backing

Critics say that the downfall of two of the largest for-profit education firms sponsoring academies marks the death knell for such companies in the English state system.

But Matthew Bennett, a teacher who writes about the firms for the Local School Network website, said: “As with charter schools in America, the for-profits have been temporarily eclipsed by the non-profit chains with heavy philanthropic backing.”

He said many of the for-profit companies were “busy experimenting” with models such as “personalised learning” and did not rule out their re-emergence in UK state schools.

Two of the Erudition schools were transferred to the Academy Transformation Trust and one to the Castle Phoenix Trust.

K12 declined to comment. A statement posted on the website of one of its schools, Kingsbury, said Erudition’s withdrawal was “unexpected”.

During an interview with Academy Today in 2015, Karen Mackay, managing director of the trust, revealed plans to take over up to six
more schools over the next five years.

Set up in 2011, Erudition pledged to bring the “best in innovative, technology-based education” to the UK. That included an online “personalised learning” platform where pupils could work through subject-specific tasks and receive real-time support via a virtual tutor.

As revealed by Schools Week last year, the Learning trust handed its academies to local multi-academy trusts. The trust employed KED – a personalised education programme used through Kunskapsskolan’s schools.

Other for-profit sponsors have also had a mixed impact.

IES International English Schools UK has a 10-year contract to run the IES Breckland free school in Suffolk. The school spent two years in special measures before it was rated as requires improvement in 2015.

Ofsted also criticised underperformance at the Collaborative Academies Trust, set up by the US for-profit school improvement company Edison Learning. However, the trust said it had the right measures in place to make improvements.