REACH academy chain creates third arm to sponsor 15 schools


An academy chain has been given government permission to set up a third trust to sponsor 15 schools in the south west of England, despite two-thirds of its current schools still yet to be inspected by Ofsted.

The REACH chain currently has two academy trusts – REAch2 and Reach4 – in charge of 52 schools across the country.

Today the chain announced a new trust, Reach South, which is expected to takeover 15 schools in its first year, with similar numbers of schools joining each year thereafter.

It marks a rapid expansion for the REACH brand, with Reach4 named as one of five academy chains given a slice of £5 million government funding last year to “drive up standards” in northern schools.

In April, Nicky Morgan said that academy trusts without “strong track records” will not be allowed to take on more schools.

But Reach has been granted government permission to expand despite just 16 of its 52 schools having been inspected by Ofsted, according to figures from March.

Of those, just two have been rated “outstanding”, seven “good”, and seven “requires improvement”.

It means 18 per cent of REACH’s schools are rated good or outstanding, and 14 per cent are requires improvement.

A total of 36 (69 per cent) have yet to be inspected.

But Sir Steve Lancashire, founder of REACH, said the trusts have a “proven model that works”, adding: “As educationalists, it is our duty to reach more young people.”

He said the new trust is a “direct response to the need for more capacity within the education sector to oversee new academies”.

The trust is already in talks to take on schools.

Dean AshtonDean Ashton (pictured left), a former senior education leader and a director of children services in the region, has been appointed designate chief executive for Reach South.

He said: “Whilst Reach South will benefit from the wider support of the REACH family, this will be an academy trust of the South West, for the South West.

“Everything we do will focus on our central belief in ‘Aspiration Beyond Expectation’, and I look forward to working closely with schools right across the region.”


Reach South’s board members

Reach’s three trusts operate separately, with their own board of trustees and leadership teams.

Reach South’s board will include Lancashire and Ashton, alongside nine others. They include Nick Timothy, director of the New Schools Network and former special advisor to Home Secretary Theresa May, and Ed Lock, from management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

The others are Peter Little, chair of REAch2, Shirley Simon, professor of science education at UCL Institute of Education, John Ellison, former science teacher, John West-Burnham, a professor and former teacher trainer, Adrian Gunn, former chief executive of engineering recruitment agency Matchtech Group, Anne Stevens, HR executive, and Mark Papworth, former chief executive of energy, oil and defence companies.


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  1. Such rapid expansion is unwise. The DfE Case Study (May 2014) into Reach 2 commented about the trust’s swift expansion to that date:
    ‘This put a considerable strain on a very young organisation. There were times when the Reach2 team report that they felt “over-stretched”…They would have liked to have taken more time to get to their present position in terms of capacity but responded to requests from schools and felt that a ‘leap’ had to be made at some point in order to build a critical mass. Making this leap did lead the Trust to a stronger position to go forwards and helped them identify the best way to build a robust base for future expansion.’
    But the majority of academies built on that ‘robust base’ have not yet been inspected. Despite this, the DfE is encouraging Reach’s growth.
    This seems reckless. In July 2011, Michael Gove said he wanted chains to grow as fast as sustainably possible. In January 2013, the Academies Commission warned against such whirlwind expansion. Since then there have been problems caused partly by such swift growth at E-Act, AET, SPTA, TKAT, CfBT and Perry Beeches.
    But it appears caution is not something recognised by the DfE: never mind difficulties already caused by overexpansion – just continue allowing favoured chains to keep on growing.
    The Reach2 Case Study is here:

  2. Why does the headline say REACH will “sponsor” 15 schools?

    Surely words like “takeover” and “absorb”, or “grab”, would be more accurate.

    “Sponsor” seems to imply some benevolence but as far as I can see all of the money goes from the taxpayer to this private company. Let’s aim to see through government spin and call a spade a spade.

    The real heroes in all of this are those at the chalkface who have to keep marching whoever is the piper.

      • Oh dear, this has been explained so many times. Even accepting that an Academy Trust is a charitable trust, its schools and assets were formerly public assets. Inside an independent charitable trust they become ‘private assets’ like those of fee paying independent schools. So MATs taking over LA schools is certainly privatisation.

        The government wants existing Academies, especially the increasing number of failing ones, also to be taken over by MATs. Some of these have so many problems that the MATs are not keen. Other successful sponsored Academies, like Mossbourne, have no desire to be taken over in this way. The government wants these taken over by MATs too. That is why resistance to forced academisation through handing schools, including existing Academies, over to MATs is meeting strong resistance from within the Academies movement as well as from those of us that are opposed in principle. This latest study by Henry Stewart shows that MATs are far less effective than LAs in securing ‘Value Added’ gains for the pupils in their schools.

        However, Academy Trusts are rarely simple charities in the way that stand alone ‘sponsored’ Academies can be.

        They tend to involve a plethora of associated private education businesses that are not charities and which can make profits by ‘selling’ educational services to the charitable trust parts of the organisation.

        The senior staff involved can also benefit through becoming ‘Directors’ of the companies involved. Academies were set up to be ‘innovative’. MATs are certainly living up to this aspect of their promise except that most of the innovation seems to be of the financial rather than the educational variety. There are many examples. See the Perry Beeches Trust for an example.

        When it comes to educational innovation this is thin on the ground. It mainly seems to involve posh uniforms with dire threats if shirts are not buttoned to the throat and pupils sitting in obedient rows receiving instructions from the teacher. The idea is that ‘telling is teaching’ and ‘listening is learning’. If after this, the students still don’t understand say, ‘Newton’s Laws of Motion’ then clearly they have not been told the facts enough times or they haven’t listened hard enough.

        A few detentions should sort that out.

  3. Sarah

    Not quite, Christine. Legally Academy Trusts are both registered charities and Private Limited Companies. They are Limited by Guarantee without share capital. You will find them all listed with companies house where you can see who the officers are and details of their accounts.

    • But using the term ‘private limited company’ is a very loaded term. They are very public organisations. As you say they have to file and publish all the accounts and set out who the members/trustees are thats hardly being ‘private’.

      • But ‘Private Limited Company’ is what they are. It seems a pretty accurate and clear description to me. There is little public about Academies. For all of the post 1997 Labour governments they were not even bound by the Freedom of Information Act. A genuine public body, like the Local Education Authority, accountable to the public through the election of councillors, has no rights to ask any questions of Academies, or require any answers on behalf of the public as a whole, or individual parents. LAs have far more rights to information about what goes on in the fish & chip shop at the end of your road, than it does about the Academy it may be required to force you to send your child to.

      • Christine – Companies House makes it quite clear: each academy trust is a ‘Private Limited Company by guarantee without share capital use of ‘Limited’ exemption.’
        Private in this context does not mean ‘kept from public view’. It’s a legal term meaning a company does not have shares which are traded on a stock exchange as in the case of a Public Limited Company (PLC).
        Academy trusts are private limited companies with no share capital (ie no shareholders). But they have ‘members’ who act like shareholders. They appoint trustees, for example.
        As well as being private limited companies, academy trusts are also charities but they are ‘exempt’ from being registered with the Charities Commission. Nevertheless, they have to abided by Charity as well as Company laws.

  4. Steve

    There is a mis-understanding re some of the postings. The legal companies house set up for academies means that there are no shareholders (unlike other private and publically owned companies who have shareholders), so any surplus of income over expenditure (usually referred to as profit), is retaining for use by the academy (there being no owner to distribute it to).

    The way money is extracted is by the academy entering into a contract for another business to supply a service (eg management fee, or other services, eg he or payroll or accounting). Often these other business will then “syphon” off money which should be spent for the benefit of the children in the school.