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Largest multi-academy chain told to sort out its finances - why no publicity?

(7 Posts)
Abuelita Sun 02-Nov-14 08:57:53

England's largest multi-academy trust, Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has just been served with a Financial Notice to Improve by the Education Funding Agency (the part of the Department for Education that deals with funding academies). But there's been no publicity. When academy chain E-Act was criticised for the way it handled it money (operating in a culture of extravagance) it was all over the papers. But there seems to have been no outcry about AET which is larger than AET and handles millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

The only publicity seems to have been in Academies Week: academiesweek.co.uk/englands-largest-academies-chain-issued-with-notice-of-financial-concern/ and my article on the Local Schools Network:
www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/10/largest-multi-academy-sponsor-gets-financial-notice-to-improve-efa-has-serious-concerns-about-volatility/

Is anyone concerned about this? And if there any parents with children at AET academies reading this, what are your worries?

ikkenu Sun 02-Nov-14 11:48:08

There's an AET school in Richmond borough which is the only option for many. It was undersubscribed until this year's Y7 (because there's a shortage and there were no alternatives) but it has had millions spent on rebuilding so there's no perception of it being strapped for cash. But cash for buildings don't go towards paying teachers I guess, and maybe a lot of its other schools are undersubscribed and creating a deficit.

There's certainly not been any coverage in local papers of the chain but the school was nearly an E-ACT school and local councillors were certainly worried about the viability of that chain. Now it's out of council control - so no local political debate, no coverage.

TalkinPeace Sun 02-Nov-14 13:25:10

Most parents have absolutely no choice over the school their kids attend so its not something to stress about
depressing but true

Abuelita Mon 03-Nov-14 15:42:54

Thanks, ikkenu. I think you must be referring to Richmond Park Academy which was judged Good by Ofsted in 2012. However, Ofsted said AET as a whole was not doing a good job of educating a large proportion of its pupils. This was probably due, Ofsted said, to the chain growing far too quickly. Now the EFA has told AET to get its finances in order. The chain is responsible for millions of pounds of public money - it's currently negotiating a contract to outsource all its back room services, training and careers advice to PriceWaterhouse-Coopers, a firm of accountants with no experience of running schools. The contract's worth £400m over 10 years and an MP on the Education Select Committee described it as a 'huge step' towards a huge privatisation of of a range of school services.

It's a matter of huge concern that an organisation which is being criticised for the way it manages its finances has control of such large sums of money.

Abuelita Mon 03-Nov-14 15:50:48

TalkinPeace - we're talking about millions of pounds of taxpayers' money in the hands of an organisation being criticised for the way it handles money. AET has already been censured for 'unusual' payments given to academy trustees. This is money that could have been spent on education.

AET isn't the only academy chain where academy trustees have profited from their involvement in academies: the Guardian revealed in January that millions of pounds of public money was finding its way to companies with links to academy trustees.

www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/12/taxpayer-funded-academy-paying-millions-private-firms-schools-education-revealed-education

The Government has said all along that turning schools into sponsored academies is a sure-fire way of improving the schools. But the recent National Audit Office report into oversight of academies and maintained schools found that sponsoring academies was less effective than other methods of helping struggling schools and potentially a great deal more expensive.

TalkinPeace Mon 03-Nov-14 16:00:52

Abu
Please, you do not have to convince me of the offensiveness of Academy chains.
My local school is run by one and I'd rather home educate than send my kids there - which is why it has hundreds of empty places.
BUT
there is little or nothing that any parent can do as many are not even able to vote with their feet.

ikkenu Mon 03-Nov-14 20:39:31

I hate academy chains too. I'm glad I could avoid them and not have to go private. But the politics of them implicates all political parties - AET and the borough's Swedish academies (are they going bust too?) were set up under Labour, by the (then) LibDem council. The Conservatives are now in charge of allocating children to those schools (although they've given Catholics an alternative). The MPs for the borough back the government and wouldn't send their children to state schools anyway. So as a parent you're stuffed and as a voter who can you complain to?

One question specifically about AET though - what will happen to that big outsourcing contract now?

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