Academies Enterprise Trust (AET)

(111 Posts)
riddlesgalore Wed 13-Jun-12 11:41:10

This multiple academy trust (AET) is it seems interested in taking over the local secondary school that my children attend. They say they have a good track record of school inmprovement in other areas - is this true? Does anyone have any information?

muminlondon Fri 16-Aug-13 07:17:42

'There are many supporters in the Blairite wing'

True but they are unlikely to send their children to sponsored academies either. I think there are Conservative oponents of forced academisation, and those who like standalone academies but not chains. But also Conservative council leaders angry with being bullied by academy brokers.

Mossbourne Academy is undeniably successful - not all academies are the same. Free schools too are a mixture of sponsored academies, ex-privates and religious schools under the same policy but parent-led schools (on which the policy was sold to the public) are a minority. It's their tactic to muddle the debate.

But you can't deny forced academisation is unpopular and undemocratic. The government is pushing an agenda, to break up LAs, reduce the power of the unions and bring in privatisation. Even David Triggs - who is at least an ex-head rather than a carpet salesman - has suggested they expanded because the government encouraged it. But Gove is ready to blame individual companies where his policy is flawed and will never be accountable when it goes wrong.

muminlondon Fri 16-Aug-13 12:04:15

In terms of the sponsored academies judged inadequate, AET has a bigger proportion in this category than any other chain.

Below average (e.g. cf. 65% LA maintained schools good or outstanding):

AET: 12 inspected = 1 outstanding, 3 good, 4 'need improvement', 4 inadequate.
E-ACT: 12 inspected = 2 outstanding, 2 good, 6 'need improvement', 2 inadequate
Oasis: 11 inspected = 0 outstanding, 5 good, 5 'need improvement', 1 inadequate

Above average:

Ark: 8 inspected = 3 outstanding, 4 good, 1 'needs improvement', but none inadequate.
Harris: 9 inspected = 8 outstanding, 1 good
Ormiston: 15 inspected = 7 outstanding, 5 good, 3 'need improvement'
United Learning: 18 inspected = 3 outstanding, 11 good, 3 'need improvement', 1 inadequate

On the other hand I don't know how much weight parents should place on Ofsted reports. There was a really strange story in Private Eye about the CEO of Harris working as a schools inspector in order to visit a competing school in London. Conflict of interest?

muminlondon Fri 16-Aug-13 12:48:30

Another measure that would interest parents are Ebacc results for high attainers - or even just the opportunity to be entered for Ebacc (46.3% of high attainers = national average).

It is hard for any school to offer the full range of subjects if the intake is skewed to low attainers. But some academy chains (Harris) have been accused of pushing bright children into inappropriate GCSE choices to bump up their 5 A-C results.

Here are the 2012 figures for schools in which more than 30% of previously high attaining pupils were entered for Ebacc, approximately in order:

United Learning - 9 out of 19 schools
Ormiston - 5 out of 13
E-Act - 4 out of 12
AET - 4 out of 14
Harris - 2 out of 9
Ark - 1 out of 5
Oasis - 1 out of 12

In most chains about a third of their schools didn't enter high attainers for Ebacc range of subjects in 2012.

warwick1 Fri 16-Aug-13 13:33:44

prh47bridge, trustees and directors awarding themselves contracts for AET work maybe be legal but is it moral. After all these trustees are responsible for strategies and oversee policies, directors are responsible for operations. How can trustees who have decided on a rapid expansion strategy, have a policy that all newly acquired academies undertake audits on finance, HR, IT and curriculum and then allow themselves or fellow trustees to be awarded those contracts (audits, reviews, project management and implementation) or approve awarding them to 'off payrol' staff and ex staff who have become consultants, without first going to tender. Why also aren't the full details of the work undertaken made public, why is it a secret? Austerity can't be blamed for academies losing staff after these audits, new academies lost staff way before austerity measures were introduced. Changes have to be paid for somehow, and some new academy staff benefit from much higher salaries which also have to be funded. Obviously the trustees are staying within the rules by rotating who benefits on a yearly basis, but some are also well prepared to benefit from their position by setting up separate companies to receive payment, presumably good for tax purposes. Are these people good role models for the youngsters they have responsibility for, after all educationalists like to take the moral high ground maybe its time they lived up to it.

I'm sure wonderstuff that Mr Triggs is a wonderful man who presents himself well. As CEO of the AET, selling the AET as a brand would be his main role, his £200,000+ salary would be a great encouragement to do his best better as the AET logo says. Mr Triggs is also the principal of Greensward Academy, the lead AET sponsor academy. This is the academy that all academies taken on by the AET are expected to aspire to emulate, yet this academy has only managed to achieve a 'good' Ofsted rating for its teaching and learning. Greensward also boasts that it achieved 72% A*-C inc E&M, yet when the reforms to equivalents are applied this drops to 56%. It would appear that Greensward's perceived success rests on using equivalents. As muminlondon comments, The government considers that measure easiest to 'game' - after 2014 most equivalents will be stripped out of the league tables. This until Gove's reforms in 2012, appears to have been the AET's strategy for improving results in their newly acquired academies, introduce more equivalents. 2014 GCSE results will be interesting.

muminlondon Fri 16-Aug-13 13:47:32

So the only outstanding school operated by AET was inspected 2.5 years ago and would be downgraded under the current Ofsted framework because you need to gain outstanding in 'achievement' and 'teaching' for the overall grade.

That is poor.

prh47bridge Fri 16-Aug-13 14:09:58

muminlondon - We had forced conversions under the last government as well but they weren't so aggressive about it. I have said previously that I am not a fan of the way this is being done.

warwick1 - The trustees do not seem to be rotating who benefits. I've looked through AET's accounts for a number of years and it seems to be the same few trustees benefitting consistently. As I've already said, the problem is that we only have the broadest indication of the nature of the services provided and no indication whatsoever of the extent.

I myself do some paid work for a charity (I am not a trustee of the charity concerned). I could not justify the time I spend working for them if it was completely unpaid but, because I support them, I charge around half my normal rate for this work. Because I'm working for them I have to turn away other better paid work so I am in effect making a loss on the deal.

My point is that we don't know whether the trustees are doing what I do, i.e. supporting the charity by getting their companies to do things for them at a reduced rate, or being paid the full market rate (or higher) for this work.

You could, of course, try a Freedom of Information request to find out more.

warwick1 Fri 16-Aug-13 15:32:15

Apparently prh47bridge, even under FOI, these academy chains are not 'required' to give this information. It is my understanding that even senior staff who work in these academies are unaware of the exact costs and scope of work undertaken for these payments. The DFE doesn't appear able to divulge the information, although I'm not sure they actually collect this data anyway. Without the information its impossible to tell whether its good value for money or not. I would assume though if its good value the AET and other chains would be happy to share the information in order to defend themselves and their trustees etc. Instead, the AET have apparently contracted a public relations company to defend them, why?

muminlondon Fri 16-Aug-13 15:35:49

prh47bridge but the difference under Labour and under the Coalition is that pre-2010 academies came with a lot of investment, very few were primaries. At the same time there was a big school improvement drive for other schools which has been proved to be more effective than academisation, which Gove ignores.

Since 2010, the Academies Act presumes all new schools to be academies and more importantly the Ofsted regime is linked with floor targets and forced academisation. It's far more nakedly ideological as a policy and is not evidence-based.

All the sponsored academies in my area were set up under Labour although opened later. They were in one sense 'forced' to become academies to access capital funding. There was a local consultation before a council vote was taken (although the response was admittedly poor) which you do NOT get under the coalition.

In comparison, one community school (now converter) has made the journey from special measures to outstanding on its own - under the present policy it would have been forced. While improvement takes time its results are way above average, it is oversubscribed, and none of the sponsored academies have made similar progress in the same period. The AET school has improved its GCSE results but not to the same level and its Ebacc results are no better than when it took over. They are all undersubscribed.

The successful community school has not received the same investment but has had a great head. New forced academies will not even get a new building and in the current hostile Ofsted regime the job of a head is very stressful. One third in my area have retired or moved to new schools this year.

muminlondon Fri 16-Aug-13 15:47:24

'its Ebacc results are no better than when it took over' - AET school

Its 2012 results compared with 2010 and 2011 that is. I really do hope they improve this year because for many it is the only non-faith option.

warwick1 Wed 04-Sep-13 11:52:51

Latest update on the Academies Enterprise Trust is that according to the AET.

“David Triggs will be stepping down from his role as Chief Executive Officer of Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) from September this year. The AET Board is pleased to announce the appointment of Ian Comfort, currently Group Secretary and General Counsel, as Interim CEO.”

This is following a period of specific criticism as seen in links below:

www.onthewight.com/2013/03/30/academies-enterprise-trust-barred-by-dfe-from-taking-on-new-schools/

www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jul/20/education-school-academies-michael-gove

and general criticism of chain academy group practices:

www.changingschools.org.uk/academiesfolder/complete%20report.pdf
www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/02/failing-schools-do-academies-fare-better/

The Education Funding Agency is currently carrying out a review of some aspects of financial management and governance as part of a wider review of the AET. When finalised this report is due to be published. Mr Gove and the DFE have insisted that they will take action to hold the AET to account for any underperformance and ensure that they make the necessary improvements.

Talkinpeace Thu 05-Sep-13 16:38:06

LEA schools - because their bills are paid by LEAs - have to publish the details of every payment over £500 : rules set up by Mr Pickles

Academy chain schools are allowed to present statutory consolidated group accounts to the public : rules set up by Mr Gove

no wonder schools are happy to convert or jump into bed with Academy chains - all public oversight of their spending is eradicated the day after they leave the LEA

EvilTwins Thu 05-Sep-13 19:34:30

Talkin - I don't think it's fair or true to say that schools are "happy to jump into bed with academy chains" - it's pretty much a no choice scenario for a great many - including the one I teach at. It was a case of accept this or close down.

Talkinpeace Thu 05-Sep-13 19:53:45

I know, I was over simplifying, but by golly some heads must be happy that they can bounce the governors into buying them new furniture and training trips without any public scrutiny

EvilTwins Thu 05-Sep-13 20:28:07

They still don't have the money... Whether or not it's there for public scrutiny.

Talkinpeace Thu 05-Sep-13 20:39:56

I would love to think so, but fresh furniture in the SMT suite and 200 monogrammed chairs for the school hall make me wonder what is being cut instead ....

EvilTwins Thu 05-Sep-13 20:52:58

Hmm. An SMT suite? Monogrammed chairs? I suspect this school is not typical of your average state secondary...

muminlondon Fri 06-Sep-13 08:11:41

I think AET must be worried because they did not publish any information about Ebacc results and appear to have done worse than Harris or ARK on GCSEs. Not meaningful without contextual data on intake, pupil numbers, etc. and may be skewed by the selective school operated by Harris, etc.

But when full results are published there will be a big divide in Ebacc results. Labour intended the sponsored academies to banish the image of sink schools and have a more balanced intake, but Gove's policies have meant increased segregation. I almost feel sorry for AET. The Ebacc rate for our local AET school was less than a third that of the converter academies. It won't help recruitment.

www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/academies-increase-divisions-between-the-rich-and-poor-study-finds-segregation-made-worse-by-a-wider-choice-of-schooling-8797105.html

EvilTwins Fri 06-Sep-13 16:48:24

muminlondon Ebacc figures haven't been released yet. Do you mean figures for 5A*-C inc English & Maths? Again, nothing official has been published as yet. We don't even know what schools close to ours got, unless through word of mouth from colleagues. AET certainly haven't produced anything. Too early.

muminlondon Fri 06-Sep-13 19:06:00

It's early and very provisional but have a look at these press releases

Harris: 13 academies
71% GCSEs 5 A*-C inc E&M (60% excl equivalents)
18% Ebacc

ARK: 8 academies
56% 5 A*-C inc E&M
17% Ebacc

AET: 24 academies
52% 5 A*-C inc E&M

As I said, no contextual data. But our local council published a full list of provisional GCSE results and Ebacc results on their website and as I mentioned, the AET school's Ebacc pass rate was 13% while the borough average was 40% (all comprehensives).

muminlondon Fri 06-Sep-13 19:14:14

Schools face so hurdles and targets now that results are increasingly meaningless. There was a report on the BBC website about BTEC Science. I actually don't think AET played many tricks in this respect but other chains may have done.

Talkinpeace Fri 06-Sep-13 19:20:50

TBH I suspect that the Ebacc in most schools will have risen significantly (at DCs school its up to 40% from 36% last year) as this is the first cohort of pupils who selected their GCSEs with knowledge of the Ebacc

there is no obligation at all on any school to publish its results - two near here are holding back because of remarks that may affect critical percentages - until the Dfe does in the new year

BUT
I suspect Academy chains are going to be under extreme pressure to show VFM

PS eviltwins I did not realise that an SMT suite was unusual - seems quite sensible in a big campus style comp - the new furniture, replacing stuff only four years old is my issue and the chairs are sad/funny

EvilTwins Fri 06-Sep-13 19:30:20

As a teacher at an AET academy, I can say that our results this year, which are a slight improvement on last year, with significant improvements in certain subjects, are bugger all to do with AET running the school and everything to do with the teaching staff at the school. The academy chain has very little involvement in the day to day running of the school. We were taken over by AET 18 months (ish) ago. There is absolutely no difference between my results before then and my results now. All this talk of academy chains having a negative effect is pointless unless someone wants to compare results from before a school was taken over with those now. I know for a fact that the vast improvements in results at my school over the last 6 years is entirely down to the increase in the quality of teaching. AET has nothing to do with that.

muminlondon Fri 06-Sep-13 20:02:33

EvilTwins I believe that AET doesn't interfere in the running of the school as much as other chains. I don't actually think chains make much of a difference if the intake is as imbalanced in an LA as it always was. I think that Gove is deliberately sabotaging the Labour academies by setting up a new tier of higher performing converter academies which now entrench any advantage they always had in catchment areas and admissions but LAs can't change that. Where it's expedient, he confuses sponsored and converter academies. Where they work, he claims credit. Where they don't, he will blame Labour. But he is segmenting the system to the point of no return.

I'm guilty of highlighting differences here but that's one of the insidious effects of league tables and all this information being published online.

warwick1 Tue 10-Sep-13 16:10:42

If the AET aren't having any effect on the performance of your school eviltwins' the question to be asked is what are you actually paying for. What is your school gaining out of the deal, I think we are all aware now what the directors and trustees of the AET are gaining aren't we?

I agree muminlondon that the older academies are still struggling to up their performance, but that isn't because the AET hasn't interfered in their running, in fact most it seems have at least one if not two or more AET sponsored head teachers imposed on them and likewise they have had AET appointed governors imposed. Maybe that is the problem, maybe they would have fared better without these enforced changes, maybe all they needed was an injection of direct funding.

EvilTwins Tue 10-Sep-13 17:48:21

I don't know, Warwick. What I do know is that practically all the secondaries in my area are academies, and when my school came out of SM, we were told that we had to become one to "secure the future" of the school. It's all a pile of pants if you ask me. Their CPD provision is way better than the LA's was, and they do have a charitable trust schools can apply to for funding for special projects. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I do know that the increase in results is due to the hard work of the staff and consistently high standards of expectation that the students have risen to.

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