Academy trusts in North given £5m to take on more schools in poor performing areas

FIVE ACADEMY trusts have been given nearly £5 million to raise standards in parts of the north of England where the Government says school performance has been consistently poor.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced a new fund for academy sponsors in the North would be used to allow trusts to take on schools in areas including Bradford, South Yorkshire and the Tees Valley.

She warned that a significant number of the country’s “underperforming” areas were in the North of England.

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The Department for Education (DfE) said the money would be spent setting up seven “high performing academy hubs” in places with the greatest need.

Alan Yellup, chief executive at Wakefield City Academy Trust.

The five sponsors include Outwood Grange Academies Trust, a sponsor set up by Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield. Outwood will work in South Yorkshire and the Tees Valley.

Another recipient is Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which runs 16 schools across the “Northern Fund regions”. WCAT will extend its offer to more schools in Bradford.

Tauheedul Education Trust, a sponsor which started in Blackburn and where all of its schools are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, will look to sponsor more schools in Bradford and Greater Manchester.

The trust’s first ten academies were all Muslim faith schools but last month it was revealed that it had agreed to sponsor two non faith Bradford schools: Tong High and Laisterdyke. Both will continue to operate as non denominational state schools.

REAch2, who have set up a new entity called ‘REAch4’ to work in the north will also recive funding. REAch2 sponsors 49 schools across the country. REAch4 will primarily work in South Yorkshire, the DfE said

Mrs Morgan announced the plan for extra academy funding in a speech at the right wing think tank Policy Exchange today.

She also confirmed that a new National Teaching Service is being created, recruiting 1,500 of the “brightest and best” teachers by 2020 to work in the toughest schools.

The individuals will stay with schools for up to two years, and receive fast-track promotion opportunities as an incentive to take part in the scheme.

And the Education Secretary signalled she wants to see more robust tests for seven-year-olds, insisting they must provide a “firm basis” for measuring pupils’ academic progress.

On the funding for academy trusts in the North she said: “Evidence shows that excellent sponsors are making a real difference in some of our most challenging schools. We now need those strong sponsors everywhere, not just limited to the South East and London. It’s a sad truth that when you look at many of the underperforming local authorities in our country, a significant proportion are located in the north of England. To try and tackle this the Chancellor announced last year the creation of a Northern Sponsor fund of £10 million to get the best sponsors to take on schools in the north of England.

“Today I’m announcing the first recipients of that fund - five outstanding sponsors, REAch4, Outwood Grange, Wakefield City Academies Trust, Tauheedul and Bright Tribe who will set up seven high-performing academy hubs in areas having some of the greatest need.”

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse James Wharton said: “For too long, too many school children in the North have been let down by underperforming schools. So it is fantastic news this £5 million grant will see some of the best academy sponsors bring in their expertise to help turn some of the most challenging and disadvantaged areas.”

The funding was also welcomed by the academy trusts. Sir Michael Wilkins, academy principal and chief executive of Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT), said: “It is essential for successful multi-academy trusts, such as OGAT, to work in partnership with the RSCs to ensure that we focus our support in those regions where children currently get the worst deal from education.

“The funding received by OGAT has meant we have been able develop significant capacity to allow us to expand our sponsorship of schools in the Tees Valley and South Yorkshire regions, where there is a clearly identified need.”

Alan Yellup the chief executive of WCAT, said: “We are delighted to be included in today’s announcement by the Secretary of State. It shows great confidence in us to deliver improvement to more schools in the North of England. It is also recognition of our work in our 16 academies, highlighted by Ofsted in its inspection of the Trust earlier this year.

“We have a huge amount of experience of working in academies in highly challenging communities. Today’s announcement will allow us to provide support, inspire change and improve results in some of the region’s toughest schools.

Hamid Patel, the chief executive of Tauheedul Education Trust (TET), said: “We are delighted to be able to extend our education offer to more schools in Bradford and Greater Manchester with the support of the Northern Sponsor Fund. At TET, our priority is to provide every student with a high quality education, instil higher aspirations for children and their families and develop the school leaders of tomorrow through our training programmes.

“We have a strong track record in school improvement and we look forward to supporting more schools in the north to thrive.”

However the National Union of Teachers has criticised the plan. Kevin Courtney, the deputy general secretary, said: “It is a political gimmick to cherry pick the evidence and focus on a few outlying examples in order to and assert a causal relationship between academy status and better educational results. Fuller analysis of the data, which involves comparing schools with similar starting points and their rate of improvement, clearly shows that those that remain within the local authority family of schools rather than transfer to sponsored academy status, are more likely to improve their results and Ofsted standings. This is not a policy driven by evidence, but blind faith. The decision to award £5 million to five favoured academy sponsors, apparently without any clear, transparent process or competitive tender is the perfect example of this.”