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Academy trust which runs Norfolk schools slammed over finances and governance

PUBLISHED: 15:50 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:43 28 March 2017

Ian Cleland of the Academy Transformation Trust talking to students at Nicholas Hamond Academy. Picture: Ian Burt

Ian Cleland of the Academy Transformation Trust talking to students at Nicholas Hamond Academy. Picture: Ian Burt

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An academy trust has denied the loss of three schools in Thetford threatens it with bankruptcy, following a damning government report into its finances and management.

Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham is sponsored by the trust. Picture: Matthew Usher. Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham is sponsored by the trust. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“Significant failings and weaknesses” were found in the governance of the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT), which runs six schools in Norfolk.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) began investigating the Birmingham-based trust, whose schools include the Iceni Academy in Methwold and the Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham, after receiving allegations about financial mismanagement.

The EFA report criticised the trust for “inadequate financial management” in allowing its reserves and the finances of academies to “deteriorate significantly”.

And by handing over three primary schools in Thetford - Admirals Academy, Diamond Academy and Norwich Road Academy - to another trust the ATT could go bankrupt, according to the minutes from the trust’s own audit committee in September of last year, the EFA report revealed.

Admirals Academy, Diamond Academy and Norwich Road Academy in Thetford are being transferred to a new sponsor. Photo: Bill Smith Admirals Academy, Diamond Academy and Norwich Road Academy in Thetford are being transferred to a new sponsor. Photo: Bill Smith

But Ian Cleland, chief executive of the trust, denied this was the case. He said: “The board are confident that the action plan now in place will provide the financial stability for the trust moving forward, to ensure we can continue the transformational impact we are having on all our academies within the trust.”

He added: “ATT were already in the process of reviewing and updating their working practices and, in response to the EFA report, have provided a robust action plan to ensure they meet the requirements set out within the report.”

The EFA has now asked the ATT to review the membership of its board of governors and sub-committees, commission an independent assessment of its finances and historic financial management, and appoint a chief financial officer.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Where concerns are raised about financial management and governance in a trust the EFA will take action, investigate where necessary and consider follow-up actions appropriate to the trust’s response.

“ATT is taking appropriate action in response to the report but the EFA is monitoring progress closely and will take action if it does not see the required progress.”

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