Academy trust operating in Suffolk and Essex accused in TV documentary of misusing public money

Bright Tribe's Colchester Academy features on the television programme Picture: GOOGLE

Bright Tribe's Colchester Academy features on the television programme Picture: GOOGLE - Credit: Google

An academy trust running schools in Suffolk and Essex is accused of receiving large sums of public money for building and fire safety work it failed to carry out.

An investigation by Panorama, which aired last night on BBC1, claimed Bright Tribe made repeated false claims for building and maintenance grants.

The trust, which runs schools including Colchester Academy, Alde Valley in Leiston and Castle Hill and Cliff Lane primary schools in Ipswich, as well as in the north of England said it had appointed new leadership and was working with the Department for Education (DfE) to address “matters as swiftly as possible”.

A programme preview claimed Colchester Academy was given £566,000 to demolish and rebuild unstable walls in its sports centre, but instead carried out cheap repairs which insiders said cost just £60,000.

Jack Abbott, Labour’s education spokesman at Suffolk County Council, said if the allegations were proven Bright Tribe should be “stripped of their schools and returned to local authority”.

“These allegations are shocking and are the latest in a long line of concerns hanging over Bright Tribe,” he added.

The investigation comes after a difficult period for the trust, which is closing four of its five schools in the north of England amid financial concerns.

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Lawyers for Bright Tribe boss Michael Dwan said the programme’s allegations about its ‘Northern Hub’ academies were untrue and that a full government audit had been completed and no issues raised with him.

They said “each and every allegation raised by the BBC is completely denied”.

Bright Tribe said the recent appointments of Angela Barry as interim chief executive officer and Lee Miller as interim chief operating officer were working to address the matters, having commissioned independent investigations into various matters, including funding.

“If any rules have been breached, then swift action will be taken, with the DfE and the Education and Skills Funding Agency kept fully appraised,” a spokesman added. “The trusts’ leadership is committed to ensuring that students at all academies within the trusts receive the best possible educational experience, with principals and teachers fully supported to achieve this.”

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