MAT to lose its four schools after 'breakdown of trust' among local governors

An academy trust will lose its four schools following a “breakdown in trust” between its central operation and local governors.

The Learning Link Multi-Academy Trust, which runs the Dudley Wood, Netherbrook, Kates Hill and Sledmere primary schools in Dudley, was warned in July that if it didn’t address serious concerns about the way it was run, the government would move its schools to another sponsor.

In a letter published today, regional schools commissioner for the West Midlands Andrew Warren told the trust a decision had been made.

“I am of the opinion that the trust has failed to take sufficient action to address my concerns fully and I do not believe the trust has the capacity to secure the necessary improvements,” he said.

The government’s intervention in July came after all four schools wrote to Warren to say they had no confidence in the trustees or acting chief executive. They had only been with the trust since becoming academies in 2017.

The trust was subsequently ordered to appoint additional trustees from a list of “academy ambassadors and/or other turnaround consultants”, and appoint three additional members.

It was also told to set out its plans for confirming “the permanent leadership of the trust” at chief executive and chief finance officer level.

Warren also asked that all four local governing bodies hold votes of confidence in the trustees and trust.

Although two of the schools subsequently confirmed votes of confidence in the trust subject to conditions including the replacement of senior leaders, one of the schools still unanimously voted that it had no confidence. Another two schools then also requested to leave the MAT.

Warren said this indicated “that there remains a breakdown in trust between those who are leading the academies within the trust and the trust board and leads me to conclude that the schools are effectively operating as individual [single-academy trusts] rather than benefiting from being part of a MAT,” said Warren.

It also comes after the trust was issued with a financial notice to improve in January after the government found it couldn’t “accurately” identify its members and trustees.

In his letter this month, Warren said that although the trust had “partially met conditions” of the notice, there were still “significant concerns” because 2018-19 financial statements were still outstanding and draft documents showed the trust had an overall cumulative deficit of £240,000.

Warren said he had “no confidence” that the trust was able to “adequately address the significant challenges it faces both financially and in terms of its internal governance”.

Officials will now work with the trust “to agree a suitable date of termination on or before January 1 2021”.

The trust was approached for comment.