Preston academy warned funding will end despite Ofsted finding ‘effective action’ being taken

Janet Downs's picture

Fulwood Academy in Preston has been less than good since it opened in 2009.  It’s surprising, then, that the stand-alone academy hasn’t been warned before that its funding could end if it didn’t improve. 

The threat to cut off funds, a Minded to Terminate letter, was eventually sent on 8 July this year. The academy had been downgraded from requires improvement to inadequate in February. 

About time too, you might think.  But five days before the warning letter was dispatched, Ofsted monitoring found the academy was taking ‘effective action’ to tackle failures in safeguarding.

Too little, too late, you might think.   But this would be unfair in this instance.   The academy’s head, Philip Grant, only started work the day before inspectors arrived in February. 

This will strike a chill in the heart of any aspiring head of a school requiring improvement.  Take up the challenge and inspectors could call before you’ve had time to draw breath.

Fulwood Academy is run by Dunstone Education Trust (formerly The Fulwood Academy until May 2019).  The sponsor is Charles Dunstone Charitable Trust set up by Sir Charles Dunstone, founder of Carphone Warehouse.

According to Ofsted, the trust had ‘delegated full governance responsibilities’ to the academy’s governing body.  It’s unclear whether ‘the trust’ was The Fulwood Academy (now Dunstone Education Trust) or the sponsor, Charles Dunstone Chartable Trust.  Does it matter?  Yes, because the academy’s funding agreement is with the academy trust not the sponsor. 

It also matters because it’s difficult to untangle who’s responsible for the academy. 

Academy trustees are supposed to bear ultimate responsibility.  These are appointed by trust ‘members’ who, according to the Academy Handbook 2018, are supposed to be ‘eyes on and hands off’.   Sir Charles Dunstone is authorised to appoint the trust’s members but they’re not named in Fulwood Academy’s most recent accounts*.  Sir Charles, however, is named as one of the trustees.

The February Ofsted report says:

Following the last full inspection, the quality of leadership declined sharply.  Senior leaders, including governors and trustees, have allowed the quality of education to fall to an unacceptable standard.’

The criticised senior leaders cannot include the present head.  He’d only been in post for 24 hours.

Changes have occurred at Fulwood since February.  Six new trust directors have been appointed.  The governing body has ‘seen changes in its membership’.  Four members of the academy leadership team have left.  Two new leaders have been appointed.  Fifteen staff members are leaving this term and being replaced by fifteen subject specialist teachers in September.

This is a time to support Fulwood Academy not threaten its reformed trust with ending its funding.   It’s also time to untangle the relationship between sponsor, members, trustees and governors so we know where the buck stops.


*Year ending 31 August 2018 available from Companies House,

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Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 16/07/2019 - 13:57

The Fulwood Academy Plan in Preston coincided with the Barrow and Carlisle Academy plans. All three were strongly opposed by local parents to no avail. The Cumbria Academies were forced through by means of an alliance between the Conservative and Labour groups on the County Council. The best solution for all failed Academies is for the schools to revert to LA oversight. This Schools Week article reveals that reverting to the LA would also save the taxpayer huge amounts of money.

It is understandable that the Fulwood parents are frustrated. Most didn't want the Academy imposed on them in the first place. They certainly won't want it passed on to another unaccountable body.

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