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Turbulent Essex academy trust to dissolve following staff suspensions

PUBLISHED: 18:17 14 June 2018

Nardeep Sharma, who was suspended from the Thrive Academy Trust in March Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

Nardeep Sharma, who was suspended from the Thrive Academy Trust in March Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

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A troubled academy trust in Essex is set to dissolve – just months after two of its most senior staff were suspended.

The Colne Community School and College in Brighlingsea, until now managed by Thrive Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE The Colne Community School and College in Brighlingsea, until now managed by Thrive Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

The Thrive Partnership Academy Trust, which runs Philip Morant School in Colchester and Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, had appointed three new trustees only two weeks ago.

The headteachers were called in to oversee the running of the schools after the trust’s chief executive officer, Nardeep Sharma, and executive head teacher, Catherine Hutley, were suspended in March.

The three new trustees were to assume their roles at Thrive while continuing their day jobs at their respective schools.

When asked about the decision to dissolve the trust, Neil Jones, chair of trustees, said: “The trust and the schools agree that the best way forward is through inviting new, stronger trusts to take over the running of the schools.

Catherine Hutley was one of the senior staff members suspended from the Thrive Academy Trust earlier this year Picture: DAVE HIGGLETON Catherine Hutley was one of the senior staff members suspended from the Thrive Academy Trust earlier this year Picture: DAVE HIGGLETON

“We are confident that the re-brokering process will have a neutral impact, but anticipate that the outcome will be positive for the schools and the local community.”

Will Quince, MP for Colchester, said he was pleased steps were being taken to improve conditions for pupils at Philip Morant.

He said: “Questions will rightly be asked about what went wrong with the Thrive Partnership Trust and this must be looked into.

“However, my priority has been and remains the education of the pupils at Philip Morant and that the school works with parents to rebuild trust and the school’s reputation locally.

The Philip Morant School in Colchester Picture: LUCY TAYLOR The Philip Morant School in Colchester Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

“I welcome this news which represents an important step on this journey.”

The Regional Schools Commissioner’s (RSC) Office will manage the re-brokering process, which involves the transfer of academies from one trust to another.

RSCs are civil servants, and report back to the National Schools Commissioner and the Secretary of State for Education. One of their core functions is to intervene at under-performing trusts to bring stability to troubled schools.

The RSC for the East of England and North East London is Sue Baldwin, former Department for Education director for school efficiency and director for academies and maintained schools in the Education Funding Agency.

It is understood that an Ofsted inspection has recently taken place at Philip Morant School – with the results yet to be made public.

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