Collaborative Academies Trust will lose all but one of its schools

Eight of the nine schools run by the Essex-based Collaborative Academies Trust are to be moved to new sponsors.

In March, local media reported that the trust, set up by the American for-profit school improvement company Edison Learning, will walk away from five schools in Somerset this summer.

Now Schools Week has learned that the trust will also give up its flagship Willow Brook Primary School & Nursery in Essex, as well as two other primary schools –  Lumbertubs and Spring Lane – in Northamptonshire.

Willow Brook, which is rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted, will transfer to The Kemnal Academies Trust, while ‘requires improvement’-rated Lumbertubs and ‘good’ Spring Lane will move to the Bourton Meadow Education Trust.

The trust will keep control of just one school, the ‘good’-rated Kingsthorpe College in Northants, currently the chain’s only secondary institution.

Robin Imms, the chair of the trust, said the changes are being made “following a full strategic review”, in which the trust concluded that improvement to the schools would likely best be achieved through “stronger partnerships with multi academy trusts operating more locally within Somerset, Essex and Northamptonshire”.

“The regional schools commissioners have approved the eight transfers, listening periods are underway and all schools will exit to their new trusts on September 1, on a financially sound basis,” he told Schools Week.

The surprise rebrokerage has angered unions, which have been attempting to meet the trust about its future.

Jon Richards, head of education at Unison, said they had been “surprised at how the trust has been dismembered so quickly”, and accused the government and trusts of playing “academy pass the parcel”.

“The national unions have been trying to meet with them for months,” Richards told Schools Week. “Then out of the blue they told us that the Somerset schools were going. Now they drop another bombshell with two Northants schools going.”

Collaborative was the second academy trust to receive a focused inspection of its schools by Ofsted.

In 2015, the watchdog found that too many schools had not improved since joining the trust, and that its impact on pupils’ achievement was “inconsistent and limited”.

In Somerset, the ‘requires improvement’-rated Manor Court Community Primary School will move to the Preston Primary Academy Trust, while the ‘inadequate’ Priorswood Primary School will join the Redstart Learning Partnership.

Willowdown Primary Academy and Woolavington Village Primary School, which are both rated as ‘requires improvement’ will transfer to the Clevedon Learning Trust. Wellesley Park Primary School, which is ‘good’, will be taken on by The Castle Partnership Trust.