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Embattled Bright Tribe academy trust to close

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Bright Tribe, the academy chain at the centre of a row over the running of schools in the north of England, is to close, Schools Week understands.

The under-fire trust, which had already announced plans to walk away from four of its northern schools following a row over performance, will now give up all ten of its schools and shut down, following increasing pressure from the government, according to a senior figure familiar with the situation.

Reports of the trust’s proposed closure have not been denied by either the Department for Education or Bright Tribe itself.

The news follows a recent shake-up of Bright Tribe’s management which saw the trust part ways with its founder Michael Dwan and the appointment of two school leaders who specialise in the winding up of failing trusts to its board.

On Wednesday, Angela Barry and Nikki King, who have both previously been parachuted into trusts which subsequently closed, became trustees at Bright Tribe.

In 2016, both leaders joined the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust, which closed months later amid allegations of financial mismanagement. Barry and King are also currently working with the doomed Schools Company Trust, where Barry is interim chief executive and King is interim chair of trustees.

Bright Tribe also has three new controlling members.

Teresa Tunnadine, a director at Middlesex Learning Trust and The Compton School Trading Company,  Kathryn Brunt of the Rivers Church of England multi-academy trust and independent consultant Ruth Dolan, have taken over as “persons with significant control” of the trust.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said all new trustees at Bright Tribe and its sister trust Adventure Learning Academies Trust were appointed “based on recommendations by the department” and described them as “experts in supporting academies to improve.”

However, she did not deny reports the trust is due to be wrapped up.

A spokesperson for Bright Tribe confirmed only that Bright Tribe is “moving forwards as a self-standing MAT” which will work “in continued close partnership” with Adventure Learning Academy Trust, its sister trust which until this year had many of the same directors.

Bright Tribe’s new members and trustees “will drive the strategic direction of the trust into the future”, the spokesperson said, though she would not be drawn on what that direction would be.

Last week, Bright Tribe confirmed that plans to merge with ALAT would no longer be going ahead. The proposals, first set out in May, would have meant Bright Tribe effectively ceased to exist, but were shelved after strong opposition among schools run by ALAT.

For now, Bright Tribe still runs 10 schools. Officials announced on Friday that the Cumbria Education Trust will take on the troubled Whitehaven Academy in Cumbria, while Haltwhistle Community Campus Upper and Lower Schools in Northumberland and Grindon Hall in Sunderland are also in the process of being rebrokered.

Werneth Primary School in Oldham was the only school in the north of England due to remain with the trust, which also has four schools in Suffolk and one in Essex. All six will now go through the rebrokerage process, Schools Week understands.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Mark Watson

    And in other shock news …
    I don’t think many tears will be shed here.
    In case it’s relevant, if Teresa Tunnadine, Kathryn Brunt and Ruth Dolan have been identified as “persons with significant control” then they are the ONLY members of the trust and all previous members have resigned/been dismissed.

    • According to Companies House, there are three directors of Bright Tribe appointed on 6 July, Angela Barry, Sarah Brown and Nicollette King, and one, Ruth Dolan, appointed on 8 February. There are three persons with ‘significant control’: Ruth Dolan, Kathryn Brunt and Teresa Tunnadine.
      Normally, a person of significant control is someone that holds more than 25% of shares or voting rights in a company, has the right to appoint or remove the majority of the board of directors or otherwise exercises significant influence or control. But academy trusts don’t have share capital so the persons with significant control are the members. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/academy-trusts-dont-get-caught-out-by-new-psc-regulations/
      The three previous Bright Tribe persons of significant control: Helping Hands Trust, Adventure Learning Schools and Steven Moore, were all members. They all resigned at the beginning of July.

    • Hi Mark – since writing the above I’ve discovered a puzzling fact. Grindon Hall Christian School was transferred to Bright Tribe on 1 April 2017 (it now faces another change after just over a year). The members are named in accounts for years ending 31 August 2016 and 31 March 2017. But the person with significant control appointed on 6 April 2016 and still listed as ‘active’ is none other than the Secretary of State for Education.
      But this person isn’t named as a member in the accounts.
      It appears, then, there are occasions when a person with significant control in an academy trust isn’t a member.
      Confused? So am I.

  2. Glenda Hall

    As a parent at Grindon Hall during the appointment of Bright Tribe I can only state that the members of the DFE should hang their heads in shame. Vast amounts of tax payers money was wasted while the education of our children was completely squandered in the pursuit of this ideology I am so pleased my son has now left but sad for the lowering of standards in this once proud and excellent school (Contrary to Ofsted’s opinion)