Former AET boss Julian Drinkall to take over at GLF

Drinkall returns to the sector to take over from Jon Chaloner who will stand down at the end of this year

Drinkall returns to the sector to take over from Jon Chaloner who will stand down at the end of this year


The former chief executive of the Academies Enterprise Trust has been named the new boss of GLF Schools.

Julian Drinkall, who left AET in 2021, will take over from Jon Chaloner at the end of this year. Staff were told this morning.

Schools Week revealed in May Chaloner was to step down from the trust, the country’s 12th largest. He became the third large trust boss to announce they would step down this year.

Drinkall returns to the sector after a brief spell as general manager at Aga Khan Schools, the educational arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) which works to improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly across Asia and Africa.

Lynne O’Reilly, GLF Schools chair, said they had a “high level of interest in the role and some excellent candidates”, but “are confident that Julian will bring an exceptional level of expertise and skills to the organisation”.

Drinkall was credited with overseeing a huge turnaround at AET after joining in 2016, including stabilising its finances to allow for a £2 million investment to provide 14,500 laptops and wifi access to all of its disadvantaged pupils.

He told Schools Week that the Department for Education described AET as an “absolute shambles” before he joined, and he feared it could “collapse”.

However it wasn’t all plain sailing. The trust agreed in 2018 to give up two of its schools – Felixstowe Academy and Langer Primary – after ‘inadequate’ Ofsted ratings.

The trust also got millions in government bailouts to aid the turnaround.

Drinkall also courted controversy when he removed all the trust’s then 64 chairs of governors by his seventh month, also telling the Times “playground bully parents” would no longer be allowed to sit on school governing bodies.

AET has since reversed this decision.

In a press release this morning, Drinkall said he has been “struck by the incredible work that the whole GLF family is so clearly committed to, and the trust’s values and beliefs are a direct match with my own. 

“Jon and the team have established a strong track record for the trust and I’m really looking forward to building on that impressive legacy, supporting each school to go from strength to strength.”

Chaloner, who has overseen the trust’s expansion from two to 42 schools in his 11 years in charge, added: “A change of leadership can be unsettling for any organisation but the appointment of someone of Julian’s calibre and experience will provide confident leadership of the trust for the future.”

Drinkall will join on December 11, before Chaloner leaves at the end of the year.

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