Lord Agnew resigns as Inspiration Trust director

The academies minister Lord Agnew has resigned from his roles at the Inspiration Trust, almost a year after he was appointed to his government role.

Documents lodged with Companies House show that Agnew, a Department for Education minister and Conservative peer since September 2017, has been “terminated” as a director of the East Anglia chain. The trust has also confirmed that Agnew will no longer serve as a “member” of the trust.

Agnew stood down as chair of the Inspiration Trust, which he helped set up, upon his appointment last year, but ceased to be listed as a “person of significant control” in  April. He stood down as a director yesterday, records show.

“I have decided to step down as a trustee and member of Inspiration Trust,” Lord Agnew said. “Since becoming a minister, I have been unable to give as much attention to the trust as I would prefer.”

“I have greatly enjoyed my involvement with Inspiration Trust over the years and wish them every success for the future.”

Inspiration chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza paid tribute to Agnew’s “passion for education, his organisational acumen, and his steel in challenging the status quo”.

“We could not have started the trust without Lord Agnew,” she said.

“From a single school in Great Yarmouth we have become a family of 13 schools across the region, twice been ranked the top comprehensive schools group in the country for pupil progress to GCSE, and taken many schools from special measures to good and outstanding Ofsted reports.

“He has given selflessly of his time and thousands of children in our region have benefitted from his leadership. It is a real shame to lose him from the Trust, but it is some comfort to know that schools across the country will continue to benefit from his zeal and earnest desire to ensure that all children receive the very best education, regardless of their background.”

Agnew’s wife, Lady Clare Agnew, will also resign as a member of the trust in the coming days.

There were conflict of interest concerns over Agnew’s dual role for the government and at Inspiration. However his role as both a member and trustee at Inspiration did appear to also go against good governance practice issued by the government.

The Department for Education’s financial handbook for 2018 states there should be “a significant degree of separation between the individuals who are members and those who are trustees”.

“If members sit on the board of trustees this may reduce the objectivity with which the members can exercise their powers.”

The Inspiration Trust made headlines in May after Schools Week revealed how one of its schools received a softened report from Ofsted after inspectors returned just four months after a damning inspection.

The trust, which runs schools across Norfolk, complained to Ofsted after inspectors wrote a highly critical report on Cobholm Primary Academy. The watchdog subsequently came back after just four months, rating the school ‘requires improvement’.

The former academies minister, Lord Nash, was also an academy trust founder. But he remained a director of the Future Academies Trust, based in Westminster, during his tenure with the government.

Read more: Who is Theodore Agnew? 7 facts about the academies minister