East Anglian academies look for new sponsors as Bright Tribe pulls out

Cliff Lane Primary School in Ipswich. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Cliff Lane Primary School in Ipswich. Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

Controversial education trust Bright Tribe is pulling out of five schools it runs in East Anglia after questions about the way its schools in other parts of the country have been run.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has called for schools to be returned to local control. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has called for schools to be returned to local control. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

And that has prompted Ipswich MP Sandy Martin to call for all national academy trusts to be disbanded – with schools returned to local control.

Bright Tribe is to seek new trusts for the Alde Valley Academy in Leiston, the Colchester Academy, Castle Hill Infant School, Castle Hill Junior School and Cliff Lane Primary School in Ipswich.

The Regional Schools Commissioner and the Department for Education will identify and decide new sponsors as swiftly as possible, working with the Trust and each school’s leadership.

Bright Tribe has been under interim executive leadership under interim Chief Executive Officer Angela Barry. She said: “It is absolutely right that Bright Tribe’s academies are able to start afresh.

“This will be a new chapter for each of them, under strong and well-run new academy trusts. It is a very positive step that will provide long-term stability and ensure pupils get the first-class education they deserve.

“I know that the respective Regional Schools Commissioners will want to move as quickly as possible to identify the sponsors, and to rebroker the schools.

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“In the meantime, everyone associated with each school should have confidence that my team and I will continue to make every decision in the best interests of pupils.”

Mr Martin, whose constituency includes Cliff Lane, said he was not immediately reassured by the news: “I shall only be reassured when the school has been transferred to local management who understand the needs of the pupils and their families.

“This whole affair has shown that having national trusts running local schools does not work – they have to be run by people who know the area and know the pupils. I hope that eventually all schools will return to local control.”

The future of Bright Tribe was thrown into doubt earlier this month when a television documentary claimed there were financial irregularities with the trust before the new leadership took over – and that prompted Mr Martin to predict that the trust’s schools would have to be transferred to new management.

Graham White from the National Education Union in Suffolk said he was pleased to hear that the schools would be transferred from Bright Tribe, and also hoped they would go to local management.

He said: “My first choice would be to see them go back to local authority control, but the government says that isn’t possible. Failing that I would like to see them be run by a trust that is locally-based so people managing it know the area and the schools involved.”

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