Failed academy chain is still running Northampton schools six months after it asked to hand them back to the Government

There were scenes of celebration when The Education Fellowship took over two Northampton schools in 2013.
There were scenes of celebration when The Education Fellowship took over two Northampton schools in 2013.

Two Northampton primary schools that were part of the country's first academy chain to request closing down are still waiting for a new sponsor.

The Education Fellowship requested to hand all 12 of its schools to new sponsors back in March this year, claiming that it had taken the decision following a "financial review".

The move left nine Northamptonshire Schools including Thorplands Academy and Blackthorn Primary School with an uncertain future over who would be running them - teaching unions said at the time.

As of this week, a new sponsor has still not been found and The Education Fellowship is still running the schools despite its desire to pass them on.

Negotiation secretary for the NASUWT teaching union, Richard Kempa, said: "Nothing is clear at the moment.

"Our biggest concern at the moment is that something will just be imposed on the schools and it won't be their choice.

The Education Fellowship refused to comment on the ongoing negotiations.

Though Mr Kempa said unions have a number of concerns with the length of time the negotiations are taking.

"Are there enough resources for the schools, like books and paper in the classrooms?" He said.

"Are our members being supported in terms of their career development?

"Mainly we just want to know what the state of play is.

"If a multi-academy academy trust comes in again, how will we know if it will be any better?"

The Education Fellowship have so far only issued one oblique statement about why it was forced to close down, stating it had to do so following a review of “financial constraints facing the education sector and the misalignment of values with the DfE.”

But the academy chain had received warnings from Ofsted about the poor attainment in its schools. Blackthorn Primary School failed to climb out of special measures in 2016 despite being given two years to improve.

The Education Funding Agency was also highly critical of the trust's spending in a 2014 report.

It found two governors had received expenses of £45,000 in 2012/13 and there were “very high levels of private car usage, travel and subsistence and accommodation costs incurred for business travel”.

A £20,000 fact-finding trip to New York was included among expenses and the trust later admitted “wine” was purchased for a workshop with head teachers - as part of a training exercise designed to show that children, like grapes, can mature into “exceptional wines”.