TBAP trust to give up two schools

The embattled TBAP Multi-Academy Trust will give up two of its schools as it seeks to “consolidate” its resources.

TBAP, which runs alternative provision academies for those outside the mainstream education system, will relinquish control of Aspire AP Academy in Harlow, Essex and the New Horizons AP Academy in Warrington.

The two schools will be rebrokered to new sponsors by the government’s regional schools commissioners.

The move follows a difficult few years for the trust, which was recently criticised by Ofsted over its stewardship of Aspire. Inspectors placed the school in special measures after they arrived at the site in May to find more than a third of its staff were missing. Ofsted also highlighted ineffective safeguarding, poor attendance and disruptive behaviour.

Earlier this year, the trust acknowledged that “systematic” failure in its financial systems which let it unknowingly racking up a £2.4 million deficit, prompting Seamus Oates, the chief executive, to take a £45,000 pay and benefits cut.

Leaders at the trust, which currently runs 11 alternative provision academies, claimed they only found a £758,000 deficit reported by staff for 2016-17 was in reality three times higher when a financial recovery plan failed to make a dent on the deficit.

In a statement, Oates said that in light of the trust’s “historic challenges”, trustees had decided to “consolidate its resources around its nine academies in London and Cambridgeshire”.

“This will enable the trust to focus on producing optimal outcomes for its learners,” he said.

“This has been a difficult decision, but the trust believes the transfers are in the best long-term interests of all learners and staff. During the process, the education and welfare of learners, as well as the needs of staff, will remain our top priority.

“The trust will also collaborate closely with regional schools commissioners to ensure each academy joins a trust committed to improving outcomes for learners, while offering excellent professional development opportunities for staff.”

In March, TBAP Aspire featured as part of a BBC Panorama investigation into alleged mismanagement of academy chains.

The programme revealed problems with staff shortages, safeguarding issues and damaged and inadequate facilities.

During the programme, headteacher Deb Garfield also told the programme how bills had gone unpaid by the trust, leading to the school being visited by organisations demanding money.