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News - 25 February 2014

E-Act chain loses control of 10 academy schools

The Department for Education, following a report made by Ofsted inspectors that raised serious concerns about the performance of one of the largest chains of academies in England is to be stripped of the control of 10 of its 34 schools.

A DfE spokesperson said it was working with E-Act to find new sponsors for the underperforming schools. "We will take swift action to address underperformance in all schools - no matter who controls them," said a Department for Education spokesperson.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: "Michael Gove is allowing underperformance to go unchecked in academy schools and free schools.  "The complete lack of oversight has meant poor standards of education are allowed to set in. Michael Gove is refusing to take the action that is needed to prevent standards slipping."

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it was vital chains be held to account.
"But it's also right that they should be held to account - and both academy trusts and local authorities have, in the past, been ineffective, at times, in bringing about the rate of change and the speed of change required.”

Chris Keates, leader of the Nasuwt teachers' union said: "This 'pass the parcel' strategy is no way to treat children, staff and schools or to support school improvement."

And Kevin Courtney, deputy leader of the National Union of Teachers, said it showed "changing the status of a school does not improve results".

A Department for Education spokesman said officials were working with E-Act to find different sponsors for the 10 schools in question. The DfE has so far not confirmed the identity of the schools, saying it was for E-Act to tell parents.

Tonmoy Kumar, Manager of the Accounts Department of ABDS and an active school governor comments: “Such sponsored academies are state funded, but are part of chains run by academy providers. Academy providers are not-for-profit trusts that run groups of schools. More than 50% of secondary schools in England are now academies. E-Act, the academy provider, faced heavy criticism last year in a report from the financial inspectorate, the Education Funding Agency, which warned of a culture of extravagant expenses.”

“The decision to limit E-Act is likely to raise further questions about the oversight of academy schools and the chains which run some of them. There are now 566 approved academy sponsors - although many of them will only run a small number of schools.”

The Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that academy chains should be open to the scrutiny of Ofsted inspections - in the same way that local authority services can be inspected.

Tonmoy Kumar continues: “There are about 1,787 such state-funded, autonomous, secondary schools, and most of these are "converter" academies, which are usually successful, stand-alone schools, not "sponsored" academies, where a school has an outside sponsor to help raise standards or where they are part of a chain of academies.”

If you need any help and advice with Free Schools, Academy Schools or Charities, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
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