AET to give up two more schools after minister demands change

The country’s largest academy trust is to give up two more academies – despite recently being given the green light to take on more schools again.

The Academies Enterprise Trust announced today it has agreed with the Department for Education to give up two of its schools – Felixstowe Academy and Langer Primary.

AET has recently been taken off the government’s “pause” list, meaning it is allowed to take on new schools again. Hockley Primary Academy joined in September. However the growth is capped at up to 1,000 pupils at primary school level per year, and the trust is not allowed to take on secondary schools.

The removal of two of the trust’s schools also follows pressure from environment minister and Felixstowe MP Therese Coffey, who set up a petition, signed by nearly 1,400 people, for Felixstowe Academy to be handed to a new trust.

Coffey said she had been “on the case” with AET for some years and “thought things were getting better”, but said provisional results for last summer showed “the academy was going backwards and AET was not giving the leadership and support to the teachers in order to provide the best for the children”.

Both schools are rated inadequate.

Julian Drinkall, who took over as chief executive of AET in late 2016, said he recognised the local MP and government had concerns about the schools.

“We want to do the right thing for both schools, and so would be supportive of this step subject to a high-quality sponsor being found that is financially sound and has a strong education turnaround track record.”

However Drinkall warned it’s of “paramount importance” the transfers are completed smoothly. If this “proves difficult” the trust will continue to work with the schools, he added.

AET had been banned from taking over more schools in 2013 after it was deemed to have grown too quickly with a number of its schools rebrokered.

The trust is now allowed to takeover primaries, however is not allowed to take on any more secondaries. The Department for Education lifted the trust’s financial notice to improve in July last year.

Drinkall, who has overseen a massive overhaul of the trust, said they are now looking forward to taking on more primaries and special schools in the coming year.

“We are absolutely determined that each and every one of our academies delivers an education that allows young people to go on and lead remarkable lives – this is what drives us, and we will not rest til our schools make that vision a reality.”