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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?

warwick1 Thu 16-May-13 19:04:48

So how long does it take to turn a school around. The AET have been controlling some schools for nearly six years and they still haven't managed to achieve 'good' teaching and learning in them, despite the great CPD you maintain they provide.

Also, if AET are spending their massive profits on good, worth while projects, why aren't they shown in their accounts.

I suspect that those academies performing well are relying more on their own staff rather than AET support.

prh47bridge Thu 16-May-13 19:05:42

Pay is set by the board members who are the trustees of the charity. Apart from the CEO or equivalent the board members are not employees and cannot legally be employed by the charity. They do not therefore set their own pay. They set the pay of their staff. And of course, since they receive the same funding as other schools plus a bit to cover the services not provided by the LA, if the trustees set salaries too high they will not be able to meet their obligations under the funding agreement.

Yes, trustees can earn consultancy fees provided the charity complies with the relevant law which ensures they are not overpaid for the work provided. Most trustees do not earn consultancy fees from the charity.

warwick1 Thu 16-May-13 19:44:12

That's the theory prh47 !!! Have you seen the salaries of the CEO and other trust staff. Believe me board members can and have been paid as consultants. take a peek at the accounts.

muminlondon Thu 16-May-13 20:14:32

But PRH the trust does own profit-making companies: e.g. AET Solutions.

I think there is a problem of accountability and transparency for all academy chains, not just AET or ARK, and it started with Labour. To be fair to AET, many of its failing schools were taken over because they were failing. But Conservative policy has allowed further rapid expansion and forced academisation without even a pause to look at results. However, unlike the Labour academies they have not had the massive rebuilding programmes, new head or even changed their admissions policy (e.g. banded intake) which has sometimes helped schools in deprived areas overcome inbuilt disadvantage (it helped Mossbourne). So they are often not making any more progress, and more importantly, impact on parental confidence, than LA schools in the same position (i.e. mixed results). League table pressure has distorted this too - too much emphasis on C/D boundaries and equivalents to the detriment of individual children's progress and a broad curriculum. I think this will change but they have been 'duking the stats' (gaming) up till now and it get harder for them to prove they are a better model.

And there is just no evidence yet that academies are a good solution for primary schools - better than working with a local authority and temporarily having stronger schools as a partner. Primary schools are very local and need local community and professional support.

prh47bridge Thu 16-May-13 23:10:12

I am aware of the salaries paid to some AET staff. Some LAs pay similar salaries. I am not in a position to judge whether or not the salaries are justified for the staff concerned. The fact remains that the staff involved cannot set their own salaries.

I stated clearly that trustees can earn consultancy fees. Most do not. For those that do the charity must comply with the law. This means, amongst other things, that the trustees can be held personally liable if any of the trustees (or any company controlled by a trustee or their family) has been paid over the odds for the services provided.

Yes, AET own ONE profit making company, AET Solutions. This is not unusual. Many charities own profit making subsidiaries. As AET Solutions is wholly owned by AET any profits it makes go to AET - every single penny (they actually gift aid the whole lot). The profits do not go to the trustees or any other private individual either directly or indirectly. And the trustees cannot be employed by any company owned by the charity.

christinarossetti Fri 17-May-13 07:59:07

"I suspect that those academies performing well are relying more on their own staff rather than AET support."

Exactly, Warwick. Which is why they've been barred from taking on more schools and Ofsted have been very explicit in saying that they haven't provided adequate support to the schools they have taken on. The two primaries in Haringey only went into an Ofsted category in late 2011 (and were handed over before any monitoring visits had taken place) so can hardly be described as under-performing for years.

Which makes one wonder rather what on earth the cash is being spent on.

muminlondon Fri 17-May-13 16:16:22

Only about a third of their secondary academies have been inspected so far. This year two have been judged inadequate (which they were before) but one which had been in special measures for years before they took over is finally 'good'. So the evidence is contradictory.

warwick1 Fri 17-May-13 17:20:33

So muminLondon, both the DFE and Ofsted are wrong!!

Yes christinarossetti, the old Ofsted regime appeared to assist nicely in placing schools in 'special measures' ready for a quick handover to a sponsor conveniently waiting in the wings. Or maybe I am being cynical!! I suspect RPA if given the funding without being tied to a sponsor would have done just as well.

After all, academies have to pay for the support and services they receive from these chain groups, they are not provided free - that's where all the money goes christinarossetti.

In my experience Prh47, strong, powerful chain group CEO's influence the Trust Boards in much the same way as strong powerful Headteachers influenced their governing bodies. Not a lot has changed, remember the theory that governing bodies run schools.

prh47bridge Sat 18-May-13 12:20:52

I'm not convinced that happens with the chains. There are some pretty powerful people on their boards and I would be surprised if they allow themselves to be dominated by their CEO. In that respect I am more concerned about stand alone academies. If the head dominated the governors prior to conversion that dominance is likely to continue post conversion.

christinarossetti Sat 18-May-13 12:28:38

From this article - "In particular the report notes that some of the group's financial practices were inappropriate for an organisation with a turnover of many millions of pounds and that the boundary between E-ACT and its money-making subsidiary E-ACT Enterprises Limited (EEL) was blurred, with some EEL expenses being paid out of public money."

E-Act previously existed as EduTrust where financial irregularities and misuse of public funds were also found. The then chairman Bhatia resigned just as Liddington has just done.

How many goes to not spend public money on it's own senior staff jollies and profit making subsidiaries does one academy chain get?

muminlondon Sat 18-May-13 15:33:16

'I am more concerned about stand alone academies.'

There are different problems but the whole model of academies, whether chains or standalone, is a problem. Looking at the number of schools judged inadequate, there's a greater proportion of sponsored academies than of community schools (if I've counted/filtered correctly on the performance tables) and there is a worrying number of converter academies, despite the fact that most were good outstanding to begin with.

36 sponsored academies out of 404 (9%)
34 foundation schools out of 565 (6%)
52 community schools out of 1158 (4%)
13 converter academies out of 1200/381 inspected (1%/3%)
9 voluntary aided schools out of 442 (2%)

Some of the inadequate sponsored academies are standalone schools and some of the converter academies have sponsors (e.g. the Ormiston ones) but neither the league tables nor Edubase are transparent about who the sponsors are, unless the school has been rebranded with the name of a chain. There can also be many complicated co-sponsor arrangements.

One-off academies and foundation schools (of which many are secondary moderns) are, as you suggest prh47bridge, really vulnerable. The statistics prove to me that those schools with the back-up of a local authority and/or diocese are the safest.

With AET, it may be an advantage for some schools that it takes a hands-off approach if there is strong representation from the local community, but equally it hasn't been effective improvement partner in the case of three schools judged inadequate. Who is picking up the pieces at East Point Academy and Sandown Bay now they are back in special measures? Has AET been allowed to continue there while community schools are forcibly academised? Other chains that are more hands-on give less autonomy to individual schools than even LA maintained schools enjoy and override local concerns.

At the same time, a local authority is no longer able to plan for demographic changes or to even attempt to iron out inequalities in admissions.

Quite apart from any possible financial irregularities I don't see the benefits of academy status for school improvement either and can only see wastage and inflexibility. The outstanding converter academies were mostly outstanding previously (or would have been on their next inspection). The outstanding sponsored academies were seldom schools previously in special measures - they had either started that improvement prior to conversion and received rebuilding grants with the sponsor or were new schools (Mossbourne) starting with a new head, new building, new admissions policy.

deadsimple Tue 21-May-13 13:21:24

If the AET has a hands off approach, the question is, what is the point of them other than provide big salaries for their own staff and selected academy staff.

EvilTwins Tue 21-May-13 17:08:24

IME, they are as "hands off" as the LA ever were. I do wonder what people think it's supposed to be like. AET's training is better than the LA training. Their IT support is better. They don't send people into school like some kind of superheroes, but then, neither did the LA.

christinarossetti Tue 21-May-13 17:15:04

Then why are so many of their schools not doing well, and why are Ofsted explicitly saying that recently taken over schools aren't being given adequate support by AET, eviltwins?

EvilTwins Tue 21-May-13 17:19:57

No idea. I only work in one of their academies. They are no more present in my school than the LA were, but then, we're not failing. Their CEO has been to visit. He seemed nice enough- told me to apply to the charitable trust for a grant for a project I'm doing.

I don't think they're any better or worse than any other academy chain.

deadsimple Tue 21-May-13 17:46:36

Well eviltwins, if their training is so good, why as Christina says, are so many of their academies not performing. Do you get the training as part of their annual service fee? If your academy isn't failing and has never been failing, why have you got a sponsor anyway?

EvilTwins Tue 21-May-13 17:58:20

I don't know. The training we've had in has been very specific- mostly about new ICT and literacy initiatives, though also a Shakespeare one. Yes, it's "free". We were in SM for two years. Becoming an academy was part of the government imposed "recovery plan". Since coming out of SM two years ago we have made lots of progress and are finally getting over the stigma (and low intakes) that SM tends to bring. I am not an academy fan in general, but in the area where I work, we were one of the last two secondaries to convert. Once you get to that point, accessing services gets harder and harder, so becoming an academy seems almost inevitable. Which I expect is Gove's point.

muminlondon Tue 21-May-13 20:03:34

EvilTwins did your school get a new headteacher when AET took over? Now there's no money left for rebuilding, parents' aren't taken in by just a new uniform and logo. Just interested to know how your school improved as I suspect it could have done it without a sponsor.

EvilTwins Tue 21-May-13 22:53:57

muminlondon, no we didn't get a new head. I do think we would have made the improvements regardless. In fact, we DID make them without AET because they didn't take over until after we came out of SM. we didn't get a choice though- as I said, it was part of the "recovery package" imposed on us. Something about OFSTED needing guarantees for the future of the school.

christinarossetti Wed 22-May-13 08:02:45

I'm glad that things are working out for your school, eviltwins, but your last post just shows how ideologically driven the academy agenda is.

A school with sufficient capacity to improve and good leadership (ie your school) is forced to be taken over by AET to 'guarantee outcomes'.

Said school makes improvements, comes out of SM as a community school, and is then handed over to AET.

Fast forward a year or so, and AET are being explicitly criticised by Ofsted for not supporting their schools adequately and indeed barred from taking on any more schools.

What a sorry mess.

warwick1 Thu 23-May-13 15:46:59

So who actually benefits from this 'sorry mess then' ? Judging by the salaries paid to senior AET staff it's obviously a lucrative business to be employed in, but how are the students benefitting and where is the benefit to the country (taxpayer).

prh47bridge Thu 23-May-13 18:39:56

Some LAs pay similar salaries, so it can be equally lucrative to work in community schools or LA education departments. The taxpayer does not directly benefit as an academy costs the taxpayer the same as any other type of school to run. Startup costs mean it costs the taxpayer a little more in the short term. Those who support academies say there is evidence that they improve standards. They point to evidence from existing academies and also to studies from Sweden showing that their equivalent schools perform better than state schools and also that state schools near an academy perform better than state schools elsewhere. The evidence is clearly open to interpretation. However as all three major political parties are, to a greater or lesser extent, in support of academies at the moment that is clearly the way we are going.

christinarossetti Thu 23-May-13 20:48:31

Pointing to existing academies and saying that there is 'evidence' that academies improve standards is ideological, not evidence or empirical based. To make these types of statements one needs to deliberately ignore evidence like this -

and this -

The fact that all three major political parties are supporting the academy agenda at the moment means that it's even more important that ordinary people look at the facts themselves.

Talkinpeace Thu 23-May-13 21:10:55

I deal with Charity accounts and public sector accounts for a living.
I genuinely do not understand why you have so much faith in the altruism of the Charity sector.
Once you get to director level I have never, ever seen it.
The front line staff may be, but the head honchos are business people.
Even more so in Academy chains where the cash flow from Government is enormous and guaranteed.

prh47bridge Thu 23-May-13 21:28:29

I have never said I have faith in the altruism of the charity sector. I don't have faith in altruism in the public sector either. All I have ever done here is point out the rules that charities are required to observe. Most manage to do so. Some do not.

For someone who says she deals with charity accounts for a living you have surprisingly little knowledge of how charities work. It wasn't that long ago you were wrongly stating that there was no such thing in law as a charitable company and that the Oxfam company must be something used by Oxfam for its non-exempt trading. Even recently you asked how the trustees of a charity were earning a living, apparently unaware of the fact that trustees are usually unpaid volunteers even when dealing with very large charities such as the National Trust.

Of course there are abuses in the charity sector. There are abuses in the public and private sectors too. There is no form of organisation that guarantees against abuse.

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