Financial ‘notice to improve’ removed from Northamptonshire academy sponsor

Thorplands Primary School and Day Nursery celebrating their academy status under sponsorship of The Education Fellowship.
Thorplands Primary School and Day Nursery celebrating their academy status under sponsorship of The Education Fellowship.

A financial notice to improve issued to a trust which runs nine schools in Northamptonshire, including two in Northampton, has been lifted.

The Education Fellowship, which sponsors Blackthorn and Thorplands Primary Schools in Northampton, was found to have “irresponsibly” spent thousands of pounds of public money in a report published by The Education Funding Agency (EFA) published in April last year.

The report found that 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”.

The expenses policy the trust used, which applied to an individual academy, also allowed for ‘moderate consumption’ of alcohol despite the fact the use of public funds to purchase alcohol is deemed to be an improper use of funds.

The EFA served the trust with a written notice to improve financial management, control and governance and the agency has monitored its progress towards meeting 26 recommendations for improvement during the past 12 months.

In response to the review, the trust said that “significant structural changes” had been made since the period covered by the report, which was up to August 31, 2013.

Johnson Kane, chief executive of The Education Fellowship, said: “We are all very pleased to have confirmation that the Financial Notice to Improve has been lifted.

“The fellowship is a changed organisation complete with a new set of trustees, and we are pleased that the EFA has both seen this and respects it and has endorsed that we are an academy trust making a huge difference in education.

“We have developed a new structure and ethos through co-ownership which we believe, over time, can make our schools the best in the land.”

The Education Fellowship was founded in 2012.

Its academies are Wellingborough’s Olympic Primary, Ruskin Junior, Warwick Primary and Wrenn School, Windmill Primary in Raunds, Rushden Academy and Risedene Academy in Rushden, Blackthorn Academy and Thorplands Primary in Northampton, as well as Clarendon Academy in Trowbridge, Desborough College in Maidenhead and Pembroke Park Primary in Salisbury.