Academy trust leader defends school chains following crisis

Paul Tarn, chief executive of Delta Acadamies Trust.
Paul Tarn, chief executive of Delta Acadamies Trust.

The leader of Yorkshire’s largest academy chain which is set to takeover four schools that have been offloaded by the crisis-hit Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) has argued that trusts “can be a force for good”.

The Government’s academy programme has faced growing criticism following the shock announcement from WCAT in September that it would be shedding all 21 of it schools, with union leaders and politicians arguing that they lack democratic oversight.

However Paul Tarn, chief executive of Delta Academies Trust, said all multi-academy trusts (MATs) should not be measured by the same yardstick.

Former coal miner Mr Tarn, who has spent the last decade turning around some of the worst performing schools in the country, took up his role as chief executive at Delta Academies Trust, which is based in Wakefield, almost two years ago.

Since his appointment he has overseen major improvements across its 43 schools, including 31 in Yorkshire, and has began working in partnership with Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) to overhaul education in the north.

Mr Tarn, who was previously the deputy chief executive for the fellow Wakefield-based OGAT, one of the country’s highest performing academy chains, said: “I have worked for a very effective academy trust for the best part of 15 years. Half the schools in Outwood are in the top 100 per cent in the country.

“Academy trusts can be a force for good.”

Last month the Government announced that it has provisionally identified eight preferred new trusts to take over the 21 schools that are being off-loaded by WCAT.

They include Delta, which has been put forward to sponsor two primary schools and a secondary in Doncaster, along with a high school in Goole, East Yorkshire.

Mr Tarn said: “I agree that parents will be concerned about a new trust coming on board. My reassurance would be academy trusts can be positive.

“We have set ourselves a mission to change educational outcomes in the north and it is a tremendous opportunity for our proposed new schools.”

Mr Tarn hit out at critics who claim the academy programme is leading to the privatisation of education, with not enough accountability for leaders.

He said: “I am accountable first of all to my board of directors. I am accountable to the Regional Schools Commissioner’s office for the performance of my schools. I am accountable to Ofsted which inspects individual academies. It does reflect on the trust if schools go into special measures. Every school is our trust, it’s not a question of the trust being the centre. We are the school and vice versa.

“Because we are a big trust we are also accountable to Sir David Carter the National Schools Commissioner. I do feel accountable.”

He added that taking on new schools, particularly those that were struggling, was “a two-way process”.

He said: “We have been identified as the preferred trust to work with four of WCAT’s schools.

“I have to reassure my board, because we are becoming a successful organisation and our schools are improving.

“I cannot take on schools to the detriment of the schools we already have.”