Exclusive: Academy trust which ‘misled’ the Yorkshire Post is to be wound up by the Government

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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AN ACADEMY trust which runs a small number of primary schools in South Yorkshire is to be wound up after a Government commissioner decided it did not have the capacity to do the job.

The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) has also said that Sandhill Multi Academy Trust (MAT) made a misleading statement to The Yorkshire Post earlier this year about why Government officials were overseeing some of its national SATs tests.

Sandhill’s MAT’s two remaining schools, Sandhill Primary and Monkwood, in Rawmarsh, will now be moved to another sponsor. The RSC’s decision was revealed in a response to a complaint about the MAT from a member of the public.

Sandhill MAT had claimed the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) was administering national curriculum tests at one of its schools, in Rotherham, “at the trust’s request”. The STA administered tests at Brookfield Primary this year and also had a presence at the trust’s other two schools.

It followed an investigation into the SATs at Brookfield in 2014, which had not found any maladministration but did delay results being published. When The Yorkshire Post revealed the STA’s involvement, in May this year, Sandhill MAT issued a statement which said it was “working with the STA who will be invigilating the key stage two SATs at Brookfield at the trust’s request”.

But a letter from the office of the RSC for East Midlands and the Humber, seen by The Yorkshire Post, said that this decision was “made solely on the part of the STA”. It adds: “This decision was not made in response to any request from the trust.” And it says Sandhill’s statement was “clearly misleading”.

The RSC letter was sent to a member of the public who had complained about Sandhill MAT’s handling of the matter. The complaint said despite Sandhill MAT being made aware on March 2 that STA officials would be coming to Brookfield to oversee tests, this was not passed on to parents until it reported by The Yorkshire Post in May. It also complained about Sandhill MAT saying it had invited the STA in. Brookfield Primary is no longer part of Sandhill MAT which withdrew from the school in July.

In a response to the complaint, the RSC wrote: “[Sandhill] Trust has indicated they highlighted with the RSC at a meeting on March 2 that they would like an external body to oversee the SATs, but we are clear that no formal request was made in this respect.”

It adds: “As documents made available to us by the trust confirms it issued a statement to The Yorkshire Post which stated the trust were ‘working with the STA who will be invigilating the key stage two SATs at Brookfield at the trust’s request’. This was clearly misleading.”

The letter adds that following talks, the RSC had concluded Sandhill MAT “lacks the capacity to discharge the strategic nature of its role. As a result the trust has agreed to the department re-brokering Monkwood and Sandhill Primaries to a new sponsor”.

In response to the first part of the complaint, the RSC said the purdah period before the General Election had restricted Sandhill MAT’s ability to tell parents about the STA coming in to Brookfield to oversee SATs.

Sandhill MAT did not respond to a request for a comment. But a letter sent to parents said trustees were aware they did not have the capacity to “meet the ever increasing business demands of operating a MAT”. Talks are said to be ongoing about moving its schools to a larger trust.