Salford Academy Trust to give up its four schools and close

An academy trust that caters for some of the most disadvantaged pupils in Salford is to close and have all four of its schools rebrokered to new sponsors.

The Salford Academy Trust was founded by Salford City College, the University of Salford and Salford City Council in 2012.

The trust runs two primary schools: Dukesgate Primary Academy and Marlborough Road Primary School, and secondary schools Albion Academy, and Irlam and Cadishead College.

Its accounts, published in February, acknowledge that it has been “identified as ‘high risk’ by the Department for Education” after a DfE review of the Albion Academy last spring identified “serious weaknesses”.

It also acknowledged the potential risk caused by the addition of the ‘inadequate’ Irlam and Cadishead, which joined the trust in July 2017.

Albion Academy is currently rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted. A monitoring visit in November congratulated principal Karl Mackey for having “completely transformed the school” since his appointment in June 2017, and noted improvements since the appointment of CEO Kevin Rowlands last January.

However, Lisa Stone, Salford city council’s lead member for children’s and young people’s services, said it was “imperative that we ensure our schools can access the very best support to deliver the highest educational standards.

“Although we have worked hard over several years to create a Salford offer to schools forced or choosing to convert to academy status, despite our best efforts the trust has not delivered on the ambitious vision that the three sponsors had for it at its inception,” she continued.

“We are therefore in agreement with the regional schools commissioner’s office that another, more established sponsor with demonstrated experience of school improvement will be the best option for our schools and our pupils.”

Salford City College retains 75-per-cent control over the trust, and Salford city council and the University of Salford retain 12.5 per cent each.

The four schools have capacity for a total of 2,500 pupils and currently cater for around 2,000, more than half of whom are eligible for free school meals and/or pupil premium payments.

According to accounts, a “significantly high percentage of children come from areas of significant social challenge and the wards serving our schools are the most deprived in the City of Salford”.

“We have been working closely with Salford Academy Trust to consider best options for the future of the academies in the trust,” said a Department for Education spokesperson. “In consultation with the trust, we are considering the options for transferring the academies to another trust. More information will be available in due course.”

Salford Academy Trust, Salford City College and the University of Salford were all approached for comment.