Notorious academy trusts: Bright Tribe and ALAT face possible clawback

Janet Downs's picture

Bright Tribe and its associated trust, ALAT, face a possible £1.8m clawback by the Department for Education, Schools Week reports.

 The two trusts, founded by businessman Michael Dwan, were the subject of a Panorama exposé in September 2018.  The programme alleged that taxpayers’ money given for school repairs had not been used as intended.  Accounts seen by Schools Week show the DfE is considering taking action over ‘potential improper use of historic grants’.  They also reveal ‘serious concerns’ over ‘unsafe’ school premises.

In 2015, the then education secretary Nicky Morgan included Bright Tribe in the list of five ‘outstanding’ academy trusts* to be given money to set up ‘high-performing academy hubs’ in northern England.   The newly-released accounts show a ‘lack of clarity’ over how the Northern Sponsor Fund grant was spent. 

Bright Tribe began to expand when Michael Gove was education secretary.  It was lined up to become sponsor of struggling Parklands High School in Speke.  Parklands was newly-opened in 2002 under a £27m PFI contract with one of Dwan’s companies.  The potential conflict of interest between sponsoring a school and holding the PFI contract does not seem to have bothered Gove.  The sponsorship did not go ahead because Parklands closed.  Dwan’s company is still receiving £12k a day from Liverpool Council for the unused school.  This will continue until 2028.

Bright Tribe is still named as an approved academy sponsor by the DfE.  ALAT has been removed.

Full story here.

*Wakefield City Academy Trust (WCAT) was another of the ‘outstanding’ trusts awarded grants to establish academy hubs.  This was despite rumblings that it was in trouble.   WCAT has since collapsed.  Local councillors demanded a public inquiry.  The then education secretary Justine Greening promised a ‘forensic analysis’ by auditors into WCAT’s demise. 

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Julie Rayson's picture
Mon, 01/07/2019 - 19:13

£12k a day, is this correct?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 04/07/2019 - 08:59

Sorry for delay in reply.   According to the Liverpool Echo (2016), the council still faced a bill of £58m on the PFI contract.  The paper wrote, 'The council is currently paying off £4.3m a year – equivalent to £12,000 a day – but this bill will increase annually with inflation.'

Schools Week also carried the story, adding that it would cost the council £34.1m to get out of the PFI contract early.  This, the paper added, would include 'compensation for shareholders'.  

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