Astrea's founding chief executive to step down after 4 years at helm

Libby Nicholas will step down as chief executive of the Astrea Academy Trust which she helped found four years ago.

It comes as the trust, a spin-off of the Reach2 academy trust and which now runs 27 schools, claims it is set to post a six-figure surplus this year.

Astrea had to delay publishing last year’s accounts after calling in forensic auditors when its expansion of struggling schools “raised some question marks”.

Astrea said Nicholas is standing down to “spend time with her family, particularly so given she has an 8-week-old baby”.

A recruitment process has started with the trust hoping a new chief executive will be in place early next year, when Nicholas will step aside.

James Muir, Astrea chairman, said they were “deeply disappointed”, but “equally we absolutely respect her decision”.

“Thanks to her drive and determination, Astrea has established itself as a force for good… Astrea truly is a family – a family that is bound together by a shared commitment to deliver an education that inspires beyond belief.

“We will miss Libby hugely and the sector and all of us owe her a huge debt of gratitude.”

The trust, originally called Reach4, was founded by Reach2 to run schools in the north of England under the government’s £5 million ‘northern hub’ scheme.

Of those that won funding, the trust had taken on the most schools (15) within a year of the cash being handed out.

The trust rebranded as Astrea and cut its ties to founder Reach2 in April 2017. However it was one of the 43 trusts named and shamed by the government this year for failing to submit their accounts on time.

But Astrea said it’s now in a “strong position” financially, with results in reading, writing and maths among its primary schools also up 28 per cent in three years.

Nicholas added: “It has been an absolute honour to set up Astrea and to bring together a family of such wonderful schools working alongside dedicated and caring colleagues. We have achieved a huge amount in a relatively short space of time and have moved the profile of the schools from predominantly ‘special measures’ to predominantly ‘good’ or better.”

She said it was time for a leader with a “fresh perspective who can pivot our strategy to focus on embedding the brilliance in all our schools and establishing the trust as an innovator of best practice in the sector”.