A large academy trust has commissioned an “honest and frank” evaluation of its leadership while its chief executive is “unexpectedly away from his duties”. 

On Wednesday, Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership revealed it had commissioned an evaluation report from St Mary’s University, Twickenham, “to inform the further development and improvement” of the trust. 

The announcement follows a period in which trust leader Clive Webster has been noticeably absent from activities. 

When asked about this, a trust spokesperson said: “Mr Webster is unexpectedly away from his duties at present, he has not left KCSP and remains an employee of the trust.”

In his absence, Mark Harris – director of finance and HR – has taken on the role of deputy CEO at KCSP. 

The review and Webster’s absence was first revealed by Kent Independent Education Advice.

Webster made national headlines last year after banning KCSP’s schools from hosting 11-plus exams which “promote non-Catholic schools”. 

The ban came after Archbishop John Wilson – leader of the Archdiocese of Southwark which is responsible catholic schools in Kent, Medway, Bromley and Bexley – sent a letter reminding members “it is diocesan policy . . . that school premises are not used to promote non-Catholic schools”.

However the archdiocese later made a u-turn on the policy ruling it “cannot resolutely reassert a policy that does not have universal validity, is not supported Canonically from the Bishops’ Conference and has clearly been inoperable for many years”.

In a letter to trust management, chair Michael Powis explained the evaluation report will look at how effectively KCSP is “providing strategic leadership and operational guidance to the schools” and “supporting schools better to serve the needs of their pupils and staff”. 

The report will focus on the “views from the schools themselves” – with staff and governors at all levels across the 24 schools being asked to complete an online survey. 

Furthermore a range of senior leaders and governors will be asked to remotely participate in interviews and focus groups.

Powis requested staff “be honest and frank” during the evaluation, which will begin next week, to give a true reflection of what they think. 

“I appreciate this is an exceptionally busy time but in current circumstances we do need to look to the future more than ever”, he added. 

The chair said there is “no connection” between the school’s review and Webster’s absence apart from “merely a coincidence in time”. 

Powis said: “Recently we have identified a range of ways in which we might harness more of the potential of a partnership of schools to deliver better education and care to the 10,000 children and young people in our charge

“Our schools are spread out across a large and diverse county. Constructive inclusive dialogue is not always easy. An independent survey analysed by a reputable academic research team should help greatly.”

He added the project has been in development for six months with Webster “leading the planning”.