Embattled Bright Tribe academy trust to close

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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