New sponsors, new uniforms – for £70,000

The failure of one academy trust has left the taxpayer paying up to £70,000 for new school uniforms, exclusive research by Schools Week can now reveal.

Nine schools across the country were taken over by new academy sponsors after their original academy trust, E-ACT, was told by the Department for Education that it needed to relinquish control of a number of schools after a series of Ofsted inspections highlighted “weaknesses” at its schools.

The new sponsors have forked out thousands of pounds to pay for new branded uniforms for pupils.

The schools E-ACTgave up were Leeds East and Leeds West Academies, Purston Academy, Trent Valley Academy, Winsford, Hartsbrook Free School, Dartmouth Academy and Aldborough Free School.

They are now sponsored by White Rose Academies Trust, Rodillian Multi-Academy Trust, Lincoln College Academy Trust, The Fallibroome Trust, Lion Education Trust, Kingsbridge Academy Trust and Loxford School Trust respectively.

Six schools changed at least one part of their uniform and paid for it from the school budget, according to their websites.

Using school information about where clothing can be bought and pupil numbers from government figures, Schools Week has estimated the trusts have spent a total £69,410 providing all, or part, of the new uniforms.

At Leeds East Academy, which has almost 600 pupils, the school provided new blazers to pupils. A plain blazer from Marks & Spencer costs £20.

Trent Valley Academy, now renamed Gainsborough Academy, provided a blazer, tie and jumper to children. Given average costs of such items, the total cost to the taxpayer is estimated at £24,300.

Elsewhere, Stamford Queen Eleanor (now Stamford Welland Academy) was taken over by Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust from CfBT. It said new ties and blazers were to be given to children during the first term, at no cost to the parents.

And at Winsford Academy, in Cheshire, only the badges on the uniform were changed – at a minimal cost.

Headteacher Andy Taylor-Edwards said: “The decision to change trusts was not the parents fault and we did not feel it was an extra cost for them to bear.”

Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “It is an extraordinary decision. There is a bit of a fetish with uniforms at academies. Yes, parents don’t have to pay, but they will in future years.

“In a time when budgets are being squeezed, schools should be spending money on curriculum resources and teachers and support staff.

“If it is a perfectly good uniform, then pupils should continue and new pupils get the new uniform. Uniform is not intrinsic to teaching and learning and it is an awful amount of money.”

A spokesman for Lion Education Trust, which now runs Hartsbrook as Brook House Primary, said the school had spent about £2,250 on basic clothing for its pupils, including bags and jumpers.

He said: “The school is in Haringey, north London, and it has a large proportion of children on free school meals, and parents who have low incomes and are on income support.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision for us to make in that regard to help those parents out.

“What is important for us . . . is that our schools are outstanding or on the trajectory to becoming outstanding. And in achieving that is following a rigorous approach that includes the school’s identity.

“If there is a transition period with pupils still wearing E-ACT uniform, the children do not have a fixed identity for a year or two.”

Dartmouth Academy and Aldborough Primary School did not change any part of their uniform.

E-ACT refused to comment.

Main pic: The old and the new: an illustration of Trent’s uniform, left, and the new Gainsborough uniform, right


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