A struggling academy school in financial difficulty has been abandoned by a new academy trust founded by its sponsor. The government is now looking to replace the trust, preferring one which has better local resources, Schools Week reports.
Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) in Dorset was supposed to join the multi-academy trust founded by its lead sponsor, the Aldridge Foundation, in January this year. Governors had approved the move, though the chair and vice-chair of the school stood down over the decision. Over 1,000 parents also expressed opposition to the move.
In an unexpected turn of events, Aldridge now say they will end their relationship with the school, explaining that it needed the support of a multi-academy trust with “more resources to deploy locally.”
The questions raised by these events include concerns over the viability of single academy trusts such as IPACA itself and the strategy of geographically isolated academies being supported by multi-academy trusts financially. IPACA is an isolated academy located on the Isle of Portland off the coast of Dorset.
Education consultant and former government education policy advisor Robert Hill commented in a recent blog post:
“Many of the early standalone converter academies may find that they need to review their position.”
Funding pressures made it “questionable whether operating as a single school represents a wise long-term policy.” He warned that some would find it “hard and painful” to lose autonomy.
Commenting on the decision to cut ties with the school, Aldridge said that the decision was a mutual agreement following talks with the region’s schools commissioner, Rebecca Clark. Aldridge will support the school in the short term until a new sponsor for the school, which operates as a single academy trust, is found.
Funding the school has proved challenging, with the school’s location over three sites causing it financial difficulties.
The Education Funding Agency has already provided a £520,000 advance in funding, which must be repaid by 2019, and 21 staff were made redundant earlier this year to “ensure longer-term stability.”
The trust said it had listened to concerns and a spokesperson said a new MAT “should be able to achieve [results] faster than we may be able to.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said its priority was to make sure that the school receives the support it needed.