The trusts that run the country’s free schools – revealed

Schools Week today publishes a database that reveals the trusts running every free school in the country. This data has not been available except by searching each school’s website – not always easy – or finding the school’s annual accounts.

Financial statements are supposed to be published on websites, but some free schools do not routinely do this.


The upshot is: it’s a bit fiddly. And it can be laborious when you are trying to research various free schools (as Schools Week found out the hard way).

So, we put in an information request to the Department for Education for all the details, in one place.

We also have the details for new schools that have been approved, but are yet to open.

What does it show?

Harris and the Tauheedul Education Trust top the table. Each runs nine free schools and each has another five approved and waiting to open.

Ark – another well-known academy sponsor – currently has six free schools and has another six approved.

In third place is the Bellevue Place Education Trust, a lesser known trust that runs seven schools (story here).

Download the full free schools database here (Excel file).




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  1. Brilliant work, yet again, Schoolsweek. Thank you for your unstinting efforts to publish the truth about so many opaque aspects of the new educational landscape.

    I seem to recall Michael Gove justifying free schools on the basis that mainly teachers and parents would be setting them up. Now they just seem to be another way for large chains to expand their empires. The fact that Perry Beeches is in your list is worrying, given their appalling practices.

    • Janet Downs

      Too often the DfE appears to have rushed through applications to be sponsors of academies. For example, in 2013 Bau Mentora (no longer an approved sponsor) appeared on the DfE list of approved sponsors only weeks after it had been set up. Prospects (now folded leaving six academies in limbo) appear to have been allowed to take on more academies despite civil service advice that it should be paused following the intervention of then schools minister Lord Hill (see ‘Private Eye’ August 2013). Carillion Academy Trust was allowed to sponsor two free schools but no such organisation was listed at Companies House at the time. As far as I’m aware, Carillion has no experience of delivering education but plenty in constructing public buildings under PFI.
      The DfE seems not to have investigated complicated structures such as existed at Barnfield Federation (now split up), Durand (still being investigated by the Charities Commission) and the most recent example, Bellevue Place Education Trust. Neither did it appear to check company accounts such as Zail Enterprises (now an approved sponsor) which said it had set up a charitable arm, Wey Education Education Schools Trust, to act as a ‘vehicle’ by which shareholders could expect a return.

    • The trusts with most free schools: BEPT involved in furore re links with investor named in Panama papers; Financial Notices to Improve served on Chapel Street Community Trust, Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust (CHAT) and Perry Beeches; Ofsted letter of concern to CfBT which has already dropped one of its free schools in Enfield (from frying pan into fire, apparently – it was handed over to CHAT).
      CHAT has twice been censured by Advertising Standards for inaccurate statements on its website regarding how the current principal, Patricia Sowter CBE, turned round Cuckoo Hall from Inadequate when it had in fact emerged from Special Measures three years before Sowter arrived (a story which was also promoted by Michael Gove).