First academy chain closes leaving the fates of six schools in the balance

Education Editor

An academy chain in charge of running six state schools became the first in the country to fold today - forcing a sudden hunt for new sponsors to take them over.

The Prospects Academies Trust, which runs six schools in Paignton, Bexhill and Gloucestershire, was one of 14 chains told by the Government it could not take on any new schools because of concerns over standards.

Two of the schools it ran were in “special measures”, having been declared “inadequate” by education standards watchdog Ofsted.

The decision to wind up the trust, though, came “completely out of the blue”, according to Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove. 

She said the decision to pull out would have a “destabilising” effect on the school both now and in future “as teachers will believe they have no alternative but to look for another job to gain stability”.

Parents also attacked the decision, coming as it did just weeks before pupils sit crucial GCSE and A-level exams.

In a statement to parents and staff at the schools, the Trust Board said it had found it “very difficult to provide the required support and services to all our academies because of the geographical spread of the Trust academies”.

“The notification by the Department for Education that the Trust will not be able to expand has meant that our resources... are limited,” said Peter Evans, its chairman.

The Prospects Academies Trust runs six schools in Paignton, Bexhill and Gloucestershire The Prospects Academies Trust runs six schools in Paignton, Bexhill and Gloucestershire

Dr Bousted added: “Academy chain failures are very stressful for pupils and parents who do not find out for a considerable amount of time what is going to happen to their school and their education.

“They are also very difficult for staff who may want to look for new jobs as soon as they can and, thus, add to the school’s problems.”

The six schools concerned are: Curledge Street Academy, Paignton; Kings Ash Academy, Paignton; Paignton Community and Sports Academy; Bexhill High, Bexhill; The Dean Academy, Lydney, Gloucestershire; and Gloucester Academy, Gloucester.

Prospects Academies Trust is the first academy chain in the UK to fold. Earlier this year E-ACT, one of the largest academy chains, was told by the DfE that it would have to give up 10 of its academies because of concern over standards and the support given to them.

Union leaders believe that other chains - especially those on the list of 14 refused permission to expand - could also fold.

They are stunned by the suddenness of the closure as only three weeks ago they concluded a union recognition agreement with the Trust without any warning that its collapse was imminent.

In his letter to parents and staff, Mr Evans said the Trust would be working closely with the DfE “to find a way forward to ensure an orderly transfer to alternative governance arrangements”.

In a message on the school’s website, Jessica Humphrey, head teacher of Curledge Street Academy, said: “This means we now have an exciting opportunity to look at the future of the academy. The change will not impact on the quality of education that we provide in the academy.”

However Dr Bousted argued: “At the moment, there is no mechanism for dealing with failing academy chains or sponsors who relinquish their academies, other than a kind of ‘fire sale’ whereby the DfE looks for new sponsors. Parents and unions have no input into this ‘auction’ and this adds considerably to the stress.”

She said one solution could be to allow the schools top return to local authority control.

In a statement the DfE said it was “working with the Trust”, adding: “Two of these schools are in special measures and it is disappointing that the pupils are not getting the education they deserve”.

It added that pupils’ education would “not be disrupted” and that the schools would be “re-brokered with excellent sponsors to ensure they are able to thrive”.

The DfE added:  “We are tough on underperformance in all types of schools, including academies. When we have concerns about the performance of academy sponsors, we act quickly – for example by stopping them from taking on new projects so that they focus on their existing schools, and in some cases rebrokering their schools with other sponsors.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up