Heath Family Trust issued with financial notice to improve

An academy trust with eight schools in the north-west has been told to improve its finances or lose its funding.

The Heath Family Trust (North West), which runs four primary and four secondary schools around Halton, Crewe and Knowsley, failed to set a balanced budget or establish strong internal financial controls, according to a financial notice to improve published today.

The notice, from Mike Pettifer, director of the academies and maintained schools group, reflects “the weak financial position of the trust, continued concerns on governance and oversight of financial management by the board, and that the trust required financial support in 2017-18 and 2018-19”.

In order for the trust to receive extra funds in August and September this year, Pettifer told it to take a number of steps including commissioning an independent financial management and governance review, ensuring proper arrangements are in place to “challenge and hold to account” the executive management team and produce a new financial recovery plan.

The trust must also pay back the financial support provided by the Education and Skills Funding Agency by August 31, 2021.

In a statement, the trust said it was being supported by a loan from the ESFA and had, “like many other trusts and education providers across the country, been experiencing increasing financial strain and pressure over recent times”.

The recovery plan has been agreed with the ESFA, and the school is “working towards a more stable and more sustainable financial model”.

“With ongoing positive interaction with all relevant stakeholders, the Heath Family (NW) is confident that the measures within the recovery plan will enable the trust to continue the work of improving educational outcomes for the students of all schools whilst being on sound financial footing to sustain this in the future.”

The trust currently runs Palace Fields Primary Academy, Daresbury Primary School and Bridgewater Park Primary School in Halton, as well as secondary school The Prescot School  and Halsnead Primary School in Knowsley.

Palace Fields, Daresbury and Halsnead primary schools all joined the trust in the last academic year, according to its most recent financial accounts. At the same time, it rebrokered a secondary school in Cheshire “due to its geographic isolation”.

The trust also runs Literhland High School in Sefton and Sir William Stanier Community School in Crewe.