Uncertainty over Northampton schools abandoned by failing trust must end says former minister

The fellowship's purpose-built offices in Islip.
The fellowship's purpose-built offices in Islip.

Parents cannot be kept in the dark any longer about the future of two Northampton schools abandoned by their academy chain, a parliamentary candidate has urged.

The Education Fellowship, based in a barn conversion in Islip, was asked to hand its 12 schools back to the Government in March 2017.

The trust's website has displayed the same message for over a year.

The trust's website has displayed the same message for over a year.

At the time, five of its schools were rated as "inadequate" and teaching unions had expressed concern over the way the money was being spent at the trust.

But more than a year later it is not yet known who will take over the running of the schools, which include Blackthorn and Thorplands academies.

The trust is responsible for the education of about 6,500 students.

Sally Keeble, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Northampton North and former housing minister, has called on the schools minister to provide assurances about the future of the nine Northamptonshire schools she says have been "in limbo".

She said: “It is appalling that these schools have been left with such uncertainty for a whole year.

"Two of them serve especially disadvantaged communities in Northampton North.

"As well as assurances about their future, they need security for their staff, services and finances so they can make progress with their crucial work of educating children.”

In her letter, Mrs Keeble has called for the Government to say which trusts are taking over which schools.

She has also asked Whitehall to pay off any outstanding deficits at the schools and give staff assurances over their jobs.

The Department for Education (DfE) told the Chron it has "confirmed sponsors" for 10 of the 12 schools. It is understood a local academy chain is interested in one of the Northampton schools, though the Government is yet to confirm this.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We want every child to have access to a world-class education and where that is not happening we will take action.

"We have already confirmed new trusts for 10 of the 12 schools run by the Education Fellowship Trust to new high-quality academy trusts and are in the process of confirming new trusts for the remaining schools that will bring about rapid and sustained improvement.”

Aside from naming the trusts, Mrs Keeble also raised concerns about the future of the Education Fellowship itself, which continues to pay its chief executive between £165,000 and £170,000 a year.

In fact, Companies House shows CEO Johnson Kane's pay has increased by £5,000 during that time, while a "restructuring" of the educational and human resources teams at the trust has saved it £200,000.

It is not known what will happen to the Fellowship's purpose built offices in Islip either, though the trust has, again, declined to comment on its state of affairs.

Its website still carries nothing but the single stock statement, posted in March 2017:

It reads: "The Education Fellowship Trust (TEFT) has requested to transfer all of its 12 academies to new sponsors following a review of current financial constraints facing the education sector and the misalignment of values with the Department for Education."

Mrs Keeble continued: "After a damning inspection report of the trust, and a year on from its announcement of its intention to hand back its schools, it’s time for the Government to end
the uncertainty and give these schools a sound framework for the future.”