Harris Federation approached to take on troubled Durand Academy

The Harris Federation, one of England’s largest academy trusts, has been asked by the government to take on the troubled Durand Academy in south London.

Schools Week understands Harris has been approached about becoming the school’s sponsor from next summer, though negotiations are in their early stages.

TES reported this morning that the Durand Academy Trust had been informed by the Department for Education that Harris is its preferred sponsor for the school, but staff at Durand were yet to be told.

Durand Academy Trust will have its funding terminated next June following a long-running dispute with the Education Funding Agency over its finances and management structure.

The government announced in June this year that it was seeking a new sponsor after the trust repeatedly refused to address finance concerns and potential conflicts of interest, or to sever ties with its former executive headteacher, Sir Greg Martin.

The school was criticised by MPs in 2015 after it emerged that a proportion of Martin’s £400,000 salary came from a company that also runs the school’s leisure facilities on a commercial basis.

The ownership of these leisure facilities, which are privately owned, is likely to cause complications during the rebrokering process.

Martin, who retired as the school’s head in 2015, but quickly became the chair of its board, finally resigned at the end of August, following the school’s High Court victory to overturn a damning Ofsted inspection report. Ofsted has appealed the ruling.

Harris is one of the largest trusts in the country, with 44 schools currently open across England. It is also seen as one of the most successful; all of its academies that have been inspected since takeover have been rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, and the chain is regularly singled out for praise by ministers.