Bright Tribe abandons merger plans as founder Dwan walks away

The under-fire Bright Tribe Trust has called off plans to merge with its sister organisation following a large-scale restructuring of its top team which saw founder Michael Dwan walk away from the trusts.

Companies House records show that two charities associated with venture capitalist Dwan have given up control of both Bright Tribe and its sister chain, the Adventure Learning Academies Trust (ALAT), though they continue to be listed as trustees.

Until July 6, Adventure Learning Schools and Helping Hands Trust Limited were two of three “members” of both of the trusts, meaning they had ultimate control over their functions. They have since been replaced by new members, who have officially called off the merger plans.

Bright Tribe, which is in the process of walking away from four of its schools in the north of England, set out proposals to merge with ALAT in May.

The change would have meant Bright Tribe effectively ceased to exist, and was proposed following a tumultuous few years which saw the controversial chain clash with parents, local councils and government officials over the state of school buildings and pupil performance in the north.

But the plan was put on hold last month as the future of both trusts came under review.

Now Bright Tribe has confirmed that “prior corporate members” Adventure Learning Schools and Helping Hands have stepped down to make way for new members, who will also serve as trustees.

Helping Hands Trust, a charity which helps people “suffering as a result of financial hardship, sickness, disability and/or distress”, was a founding sponsor of both Bright Tribe and ALAT.

The charity counts Dwan, his wife and two daughters among its directors, and lists North Consulting Limited, a company run by Dwan, his brother and daughter, as its company secretary.

Dwan is also the chair of Adventure Learning Schools, an education charity which says its role is to deliver the “adventure learning ethos” to Bright Tribe and ALAT. North Consulted Limited is also listed as a trustee.

Bright Tribe’s new controlling members are Teresa Tunnadine , a director at Middlesex Learning Trust and The Compton School Trading Company, and Kathryn Brunt of the Rivers Church of England multi-academy trust and independent consultant Ruth Dolan.

Dolan is also a member of ALAT, along with Paul Lloyd Jones of Genesis Academy Trust, and Lorraine Heath.

A spokesperson for Bright Tribe said board meetings held on July approved “a number of resolutions to develop the future organisation of the trusts”, including the appointment of new member-directors “to oversee the delivery of the trusts’ objectives and the stepping down of the prior corporate members”.

“Trustees are delighted to welcome the new members – who bring significant experience of education to the governance structure – and wish to thank its outgoing members – Helping Hands Trust Ltd. and Adventure Learning Schools – and their representative Michael Dwan for their contributions to the establishment and development of the trusts over a number of years.

“The new Members have confirmed that the proposed merger will not now progress and that separate trust boards will be formed to enable each trust to work more effectively at local level.”

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