Plymouth CAST academy trust issued warning notice after leadership failings

An under-fire academy trust has been given a warning notice and told to urgently improve, just weeks after an Ofsted inspection found serious weaknesses among its schools.

The government has told Plymouth CAST, which runs 36 academies in the south west of England, to “urgently address weaknesses in its education provision” or face intervention.

The warning notice follows an Ofsted inspection, published last month, that found some schools had a “significant decline” since joining the trust, there was no strategy to monitor safeguarding procedures, and senior staff did not have “sufficient understanding” of school performance.

Ofsted inspected ten of the trust’s schools, with three rated “inadequate” and three others “requires improvement”.

The warning notice, published today and sent by regional schools commissioner (RSC) for the south west, Rebecca Clark (pictured above), said issues must be urgently addressed.

Clark called for a trust-wide review on safeguarding, pupil premium and governance. The chain must also provide “clarity around lines of accountability and roles and responsibilities of the trust leaders and the board”.

Clark said if the trust does not share its amended action plan by December 16, or if the plan is unsatisfactory, then education secretary Justine Greening will “consider exercising her intervention powers”.

The government can appoint additional directors or terminate the trust’s funding agreement.

Companies House documents show that eight directors resigned from the trust last month.

Lisa Mannall, chief executive of The Learning Academy Trust and an adviser to Clark, is providing leadership support, with a new chief operating officer being recruited.

Schools Week reported in March that Plymouth CAST would qualify to be a “system leader” under schools commissioner Sir David Carter’s new tiered hierarchy plans.

Those trusts would play a “broader role” in the academies programme and be accountable directly to Carter

Today’s intervention could also test the special relationship the government has with religious trusts whose schools are being rebrokered.

Trusts with religious character have more of a say about new sponsors for their schools.

Plymouth Cast, whose directors are appointed by the Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, took over 34 schools that converted en-masse in April 2014.

It is now responsible for 36 providers across seven local authorities in the south west.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “Plymouth Cast is working closely with the regional schools commissioner to implement our comprehensive action plan.

“We are committed to ensuring all of our schools perform well and give our children the best education possible.”

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