Financial warning for alternative provision provider TBAP trust

A trust which runs 12 alternative provision academies has been warned to improve its finances by the government after failing to set a balanced budget for this year.

TBAP multi-academy trust has received a financial notice to improve, which reveals the trust was first given a financial warning by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) back in January after it requested funding advances of £300,000.

“Subsequently, the ESFA has had to provide a further £650,000 in advances of funding to support with further financial cashflow deficits. The trust has therefore not been viable without support from the ESFA,” the notice said.

Although it acknowledges that the trust has taken “some strong steps to improve the governance and financial oversight”, the letter notes that the trust has now requested more financial support from the ESFA, failed to set a balanced budget for 2017-18 and failed to establish strong internal financial controls.

The notice, which was written by the Department for Education’s director of the academies and maintained schools group, Mike Pettifer, was addressed to Seamus Oates, the chief executive of TBAP.

Oates has sat on the advisory headteacher board for north west London and south central England since he was appointed in October 2016.  Two months later he was made a CBE in the New Years’ Honours list.

Seamus Oates CBE

TBAP currently runs 12 academies for excluded pupils around London and the east of England, as well as one in Warrington. It also has a commissioning and school support service to intervene in schools and help support challenging pupils.

The trust must now fulfil a number of conditions in order to have the notice lifted, including supplying monthly management accounts to the ESFA, completing an independent review of its financial systems and processes before the end of October and producing an updated recovery plan.

It has also been told to increase the regularity of its board meetings, particularly the audit and finance subcommittees, and to agree any changes to board membership in writing with the ESFA.

In a joint statement, Oates and board chair Paul Dix defended TBAP’s academic record but acknowledged “a perfect storm of operational and financial challenges experienced during 2016-17.

“These challenges have had a prolonged impact, which we have only recently been able to fully understand and react to.”

They added the trust had “worked hard to implement strong and appropriate improvements” , including submitting a recovery plan, and was already compliant with many of the measures outlined by the notice.

“We will continue to work closely with the ESFA to ensure significant improvement and progress is made,” the statement said.