Ofsted says that a multi-academy trust’s “poor financial management” is a “major distraction” to driving up standards in its schools.

A focused inspection in June by Ofsted into The Education Fellowship found “no clear record of improvement” across its 12 schools.

The report, published on Tuesday, acknowledged that the trust’s leadership team knew what it had to do to improve.

But inspectors said poor management of its finances had got in the way of its “core business” of improving schools.

An investigation by the Education
Funding Agency published last year highlighted concerns over governors’ expenses of £45,000, a fact-finding trip to New York and unadvertised jobs that went to family members. A financial notice to improve was lifted in April.

The fellowship issued a strong response to the Ofsted inspection, calling it an “out-of-date report that is damaging and misrepresentative”.

Lizzie Rowe, chief operating officer, said the trust had already identified many of the issues raised and was taking robust action.

“It has taken time but we are turning these schools around effectively now and our newly re-structured executive team and the leadership in each academy is strong and having real impact.”

The trust has four secondaries and eight primaries across Northamptonshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wiltshire.