The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) took over Goodwin Academy, Kent, from the notorious SchoolsCompany Trust (SCT) in September 2018. The academy had been bailed out with grants from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for two years before it was transferred.
According to SCT’s accounts*, TSAT agreed to repay £2.6m of SCT’s £5.7m debt when Goodwin was rebrokered. But TSAT’s most recent accounts** say ‘ESFA Recoverable Funding Debt taken on when Goodwin Academy (GWA) joined the Trust’ is £1m not £2.6m.
This leaves £1.6m unaccounted for. It also increases the amount which the Department for Education will likely write off following SCT’s collapse to £4.6m rather than the reported £3m.
TSAT accounts reveal that the £1m will be repaid when ‘certain land at GWA’ is sold.
Goodwin Academy moved into brand-new buildings costing £25m in 2017. TSAT does not identify the certain land which it hopes to sell but intends to undertake a ‘review of physical space and consider the best use of surplus space identified’.
Nursery linked to TSAT judged inadequate following safeguarding concerns
Izzies Nursery, which operates from Brunel Junior School in Portsmouth, a TSAT academy, was judged inadequate in July. Izzies is operated by Little Thinkers Pre-School & Nursery Limited whose ultimate controlling party is TSAT.
Inspectors found ‘arrangements for safeguarding are not effective’. They found the nursery had ‘failed to maintain their legal responsibility to notify Ofsted of all significant events in the running of the nursery’. That meant not all personnel, including the ‘nominated person’, had been ‘fully assessed by Ofsted to check their suitability’.
In 2009, it was discovered that Tracy Lyons, jailed for her part in a sex abuse scandal, worked at Izzies as a volunteer. Private Eye*** reports that ‘no child at the nursery was found to have been harmed by her.’ But it might be expected that TSAT would be hyper-vigilant about safeguarding after this event.
Inspectors also found ‘a lack of communication and support from the provider for the manager’. This is not the first time TSAT has been criticised for providing insufficient support to staff. The Teaching Regulation Agency banned Iain Gilmour, former headteacher of Brunel Junior School, from teaching after he’d been found guilty of drink-driving and possessing cocaine. Gilmour was also a director of Little Thinkers at the time of the offence. The panel considered ‘mitigating features’ before deciding on its verdict. These included ‘pressures he was under at work’ and ‘the lack of support provided by his employers’.
‘Alas,’ writes Private Eye***, ‘TSAT and Little Thinkers don’t appear to have learned their lessons’.
CORRECTION 23 January 08.15: typos corrected
*Year ending 31/8/18 available from Companies House
**Year ending 31/8/19 available from Companies House
***Private Eye 1513, 10 January to 23 January 2020
Inspection reports available from Ofsted.