Academy trust founded by Tory peer to close

A troubled academy trust founded by a Conservative peer will close in September – with its two remaining schools transferred to a new trust.

Floreat Education Academies Trust, founded by former David Cameron aide Lord James O’Shaughnessy, will give up its two primary schools to GLF Schools at the end of the summer.

Floreat was set up by O’Shaughnessy in 2014 with a pledge to focus on the “classical ideal of education” but has faced financial troubles following proposals for new schools falling through.

In October, Schools Week revealed Floreat was handed £340,000 by the government for two free school projects in London – Floreat Colindale and Floreat Southall – but neither opened.

The trust’s most recent accounts said “very low pupil numbers” had forced it to scrap plans for a new Floreat Silver Meadow school in Berkshire, and revealed the trust was seeking unpaid volunteers to fill the roles of finance assistant, office administrator and personal assistant to the chief executive. A potential merger with Avanti Schools Trust did not go through.

The schools will continue to deliver the unique ‘character plus knowledge’ education which children, parents and staff value so highly

Janet Hilary, chief executive of Floreat, said the transfer was “great news for parents, pupils and staff” as GLF “understand and respect Floreat’s educational approach”.

She insisted the schools will “retain their names and identities” and continue to deliver “the unique ‘character plus knowledge’ education which children, parents and staff value so highly”.

The trust currently runs Floreat Wandsworth Primary School in south London and Floreat Montague Park Primary School in Wokingham. A third school, Floreat Brentford Primary School in west London, closed in August amid problems with temporary buildings and “critically low” funding levels.

A letter sent to parents from Floreat added that along with their names, the schools will also keep the same uniform and curriculum.

Jon Chaloner, chief executive of GLF, said the trust was “delighted” to take on the Floreat academies.

“Our trust has a proven track record and we make a positive difference to all our pupils, irrespective of their background or location. We look forward to working with both schools and to ensuring their children and staff grow, learn and flourish with us.”

GLF Schools currently runs 32 academies around Surrey, Wokingham, Oxfordshire, Croydon and west Sussex.

A spokesperson added that Floreat’s parent charity will use its remaining resources to support the schools as they grow to full capacity. “This funding will largely focus on developing Floreat’s unique ‘knowledge + character’ curriculum, as well as supporting other educational priorities that the schools identify.”

O’Shaughnessy stood down as managing director of Floreat in 2016 but remained a director and senior adviser.

The Times reported in 2016 that two firms linked to O’Shaughnessy received payments from Floreat totalling more than £125,000. Most of that went to Mayforth Consulting, a company he founded.

Floreat has previously said the payment was a “fair and reasonable sum for the work carried out” and was “in line with governance and financial regulations”.

Schools Week reported last year that soaring numbers of academy trusts are now closing down.