DfE paid £490k to rebroker three failing Steiner schools

The government paid out almost half a million pounds in grant funding to rebroker three failing Steiner schools, new data shows.

Steiner free schools in Bristol, Exeter and Frome were moved to the Avanti Schools Trust last year after all three were placed into special measures by Ofsted.

The schools are now called Avanti Gardens School, Avanti Hall School and Avanti Park School.

Data published by the Department for Education today shows the trust received academy transfer grant funding of £490,000 to take on the schools, the largest single amount paid out in the 2019-20 financial year.

Academy transfer grants are paid out to entice academy trusts to take over failing schools, but only in certain circumstances. Of 241 academy transfers made in 2019-20, only 31, or 13 per cent, attracted the funding.

Overall, the DfE paid out £3.1 million in transfer grants for those 31 academies in 2019-20, down from £6.8 million for 84 schools the year before. It takes the total cost of grants since 2013 to £34.7 million.

Today’s data also reveals the government paid out £397,000 in 2019-20 to trusts that took on schools previously run by the failed Bright Tribe academy trust and its sister trust the Adventure Learning Academy Trust. This was on top of £290,000 on grants already paid out for three other former Bright Tribe schools in 2018-19.

Bright Tribe, founded by millionaire businessman Michael Dwan, announced plans to close and give up its 10 schools in 2018, following a long-running dispute over the condition and performance of a number of their schools. Adventure Learning followed suit.

The data release shows the Emmanuel Schools Foundation was given £150,000 to take on Christ’s College in Sunderland from Bright Tribe, while Asset Education was given grants totalling £66,000 for taking on Cliff Lane Primary School, Castle Hill Junior School and Castle Hill Infant School, all in Suffolk.

For the Adventure Learning schools, the DfE paid £111,200 to Truro & Penwith Academy Trust to take on Liskeard Hillfort Primary School, £45,700 to the Leading Edge Academies Partnership to take on Fowey River Academy and £24,900 to Launceston College to run Altarnun Primary School.

The data also reveals other large grant payments to some of England’s biggest trusts in 2019-20.

For example, Ormiston Academies Trust was paid £150,000 to take on the former Sandymoor Free School, which was ordered to close by the DfE in 2018, and United Learning was given £290,000 to take on Chingford Hall Primary School, previously run by the Silver Birch academy trust.

Of the 241 academies transferred to new sponsors in 2019-20, 64 were transferred because of DfE intervention, while 170 moved because of a transfer initiated by the original sponsor, and seven were due to sponsor or trust closure.