Largest academy chain offloads eight schools

The largest academy chain in the country has transferred eight schools from its control, blaming their “geographic isolation”.

The Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has been handing over the schools to local sponsors since December.

The relinquished schools are East Point Academy in Lowestoft; Childwall Sports & Science Academy in Liverpool; Oaks, Tree Tops and Molehill Copse Primary Academies, Kent; Northamptonshire’s The Duston School; and Peak and Greenfield Academies in Gloucestershire. Statements from the trust say that all eight schools were handed to new sponsors because they were “geographically isolated” from the trust’s other schools.

Schools minister Lord Nash has, in the past, stated a preference for schools in academy chains to be within an hour’s drive of each other. And last year, the education select committee said academy chains performed better in geographic clusters.

The trust now has 68 schools, down from 77 last year.


Last March the Department for Education barred it from taking over any more schools following fears that it was expanding too fast. It was also criticised by Ofsted when inspectors said it was failing to give “too many pupils” a good enough education.

East Point Academy was the first to go. It was transferred to Inspiration Trust – the chain headed by Dame Rachel de Souza – on December 1 last year.

At the time of transfer the school was in special measures, but an Ofsted inspection last month rated it as requires improvement. AET said a local sponsor would be able to give it the day-to-day support it needed.

Liverpool’s Childwall Academy transferred to a new partnership with Deyes High School to form the Lydiate Learning Trust on January 1.

The three Kent schools – Oaks, Tree Tops and Molehill Copse – were all handed to the Leigh Academy Trust, founded by the national schools commissioner Frank Green, on March 1. The Duston School – rated outstanding by Ofsted– has formed its own trust, the Duston Education Trust, with the aim of developing outstanding education in the area. It was also transferred from AET on March 1.

Peak and Greenfield Academies in Gloucestershire both moved to The White Horse Federation based in Wiltshire on April 1.


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  1. Jess Madge

    AET were encouraged to grow very rapidly in the first couple of years of Gove’s term of office. There were many schools being forced to become academies and AET was one of the few possible sponsors available at the time. Previously all their schools were to the south of London. It was rapidly clear that the challenge of supporting schools and their governing bodies over such a wide geographical range was beyond them.

  2. Academy chains ‘should grow at the fastest sustainable rate’. (Michael Gove, 19 July 2011, House of Commons)

    He got his wish. AET was the fasting-growing academy chain hoovering up schools ripe for academy conversion. But, as the Academies Commission warned, some chains were growing too quickly. Now it’s having to dump some of its academies. But when academies change hands there’s a cost to the taxpayer. And the DfE refused a Freedom of Information request to reveal how much the transfer of academies cost.

  3. The ‘geographically isolated’ excuse doesn’t convince. AET knew where these schools were before it took them over.

    The same excuse was used by CfBT when it explained why it handed Stamford Queen Eleanor School, Lincolnshire, to CMAT last year. This was rather odd because CfBT has had a presence in Lincolnshire since 2002 running Lincolnshire’s school improvement. CfBT was Lincolnshire’s preferred academy sponsor when the Council advised all its school to become academies. And CfBT run two academies in the same part of South Lincolnshire.

  4. High performing local authorities should be allowed to take back schools that fail under Academy chains. There is no logical reason (only an ideological one) why this is a one way trap door!

  5. When school governors talk about converting to become an academy they often link up with an academy trust. The case of AET illustrates the problem, you don’t know who will end up running the school. In the same news is that of an arms company taking over an academy – would you vote for that?