New sponsors found for five former Bright Tribe schools in East Anglia
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New management has been found for several schools in Suffolk and north Essex formerly run by the controversial academy trust Bright Tribe.
The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed three local multi-academy trusts will take the reins at five schools relinquished or ‘rebrokered’ by Bright Tribe in September, following questions raised over management of its other academies.
Colchester Academy, which recently drew national attention in the wake of claims its sponsor received large sums of public money for building and fire safety work it failed to carry out, will now be managed by South Suffolk Learning Trust (SSLT).
Jenny Betts, headteacher at Colchester Academy, said she was “very pleased” a new sponsor had been secured following an “unsettling time for the children”.
SSLT already runs one primary school and three secondary schools in the region. Its chief executive, Sarah Skinner, said: “Colchester Academy is a perfect addition to our MAT as its values and ethos are so strongly aligned to ours.
“Our vision is excellence through collaboration and we look forward to working with the school to share their best practice and common aims. We are delighted to welcome the students, staff and parents of Colchester Academy to our trust.”
The second secondary school rebrokered by Bright Tribe, Alde Valley Academy, will be managed by Waveney Valley Academies Trust (WVAT). It currently runs three academies in the region, including St John Leman High School, Stowmarket High School and Roman Hill Primary School.
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Chief executive Jeremy Rowe said: “We are delighted to be able to work in partnership with Mr Mayhew and the great staff and students at Alde Valley Academy. We will work with ambition, fairness, trust and honesty as we help the school continue to go from strength to strength.”
The remaining three primary schools – Castle Hill Infant School, Castle Hill Junior School and Cliff Lane Primary School, all in Ipswich – will be taken over by ASSET Education, which already runs 10 schools in Suffolk.
Clare Flintoff, chief executive, said she was “absolutely delighted” by the news.
She said: “Our mission has always been to make sure that children in Suffolk have the best possible educational opportunities and for our schools to be the best in the country.
“We have a collaborative approach, our schools work closely together and learn from each other, and we look forward to sharing and building on the great practice that we know exists at Cliff Lane and Castle Hill schools.”
The rebrokerages were approved at the meeting of the Head Teacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner yesterday.
It is the intention that, subject to the usual due diligence process, the new trusts will formally become the sponsors in the first few months of next year.
Bright Tribe came under scrutiny earlier this year when a Panorama documentary claimed there were financial irregularities with the trust before the new leadership took over – which prompted Ipswich MP Sandy Martin to predict that the trust’s schools would have to be transferred to new management.
Bright Tribe’s interim chief executive, Angela Barry, said: “I am pleased that new sponsors have been identified for these five schools.
“This is an exciting new chapter for them all under new multi-academy trusts which will provide the pupils, parents and staff with the support, expertise and stability that will deliver a high-quality education.”
Bright Tribe’s history
Bright Tribe’s operations in the region began in 2014 – soon after the trust sponsored its first school.
Having already established a network of academies in the north-west of England, the trust announced in December 2014 that three Ipswich primary schools had joined its “family”.
Castle Hill Infant School, Castle Hill Junior School and Cliff Lane Primary School were the first in East Anglia to convert as Bright Tribe academies. The following month, Alde Valley School in Leiston also joined the trust.
Colchester Academy joined Bright Tribe in April 2015, having previously been sponsored by Colchester Institute.
Along with its partner, Bright Tribe Adventure Learning Academy, the trusts converted 12 schools in a year. By February of this year, however, the trust announced it was pulling out of its northern schools. The trust announced it was pulling out of the remaining six schools in September.