Academy accounts help lift the lid on how Norfolk-based academy trusts are developing

Cromer Academy was charged £50,000 for central services provided by its sponsor, the Inspiration Tru

Cromer Academy was charged £50,000 for central services provided by its sponsor, the Inspiration Trust. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Norfolk came relatively late to the academies programme, and many locally-based multi-academy trusts are in their infancy. As their accounts for 2013-14 are published, Martin George looks at their different stages of evolution.

The Inspiration Trust

Over the past two years, the trust has grown to sponsor 10 primaries, secondaries and sixth forms in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Its accounts outline how it adopted a more centralised governance model for 2014-15, with the trust board taking on detailed consideration of all the schools' finances, and school governing bodies playing an 'advisory monitoring role'.

The accounts reveal building and improvement works for Jane Austen College, which opened in September, cost £5m and £3.2m respectively.

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An accountant found three occasions when the trust 'failed to apply' its tendering policy, contrary to the Academies Financial Handbook 2013.

A spokesman for the trust said: 'It is not always possible for us to meet the required three quotes in response to a tendering process simply because not enough companies respond to the process. In small and sometimes relatively remote locations, this is always going to happen.

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'The thee contracts in question were for catering services at Norwich Primary Academy where two bids were received, cleaning services at Cromer Academy where one bid was received and for furniture and IT equipment at the Inspiration Trust offices, which were in part donated by Aviva.'

CWA Academies Trust

The trust, sponsored by the College of West Anglia in King's Lynn, has three high schools, King's Lynn and King Edward VII academies, which are co-located, and Downham Market Academy, and two primaries.

Its accounts say it is 'anticipated' that the number of academies will grow beyond the current five, but 'the current focus has to be on improving the performance of the give academies that form part of the trust'.

It is currently advertising for a vice principal and heads of school for King's Lynn Academy and King Edward VII, to help 'create a dynamic 'campus' where the best of provision is shared, whilst maintaining distinct identities for two academies'.

Diocesan academy trusts

The two diocesan academy trusts - Norwich and Ely – are the fastest growing academy trusts in the area, attracting many church schools with Ofsted ratings ranging from 'outstanding' to 'inadequate'.

The Norwich diocese had three schools during 2013-14, but five more have joined since, with 'a number of other schools' in the process of converting. One of them is The Open Academy - Norfolk's first academy, previously sponsored by the Bishop of Norwich and businessman Graham Dacre - which has become its first secondary school.

The accounts said the trust 'has invested significantly in staffing resources and system development'. It is currently advertising for an academies improvement director.

The Ely trust had six schools by August 31, with seven joining since; two more were due to join this month.

Heart Education Trust

Heart sponsors Heartsease Primary Academy in Norwich, and its main objectives for 2013-14 included establishing a multi-academy trust 'to embed a staffing restructure at the sponsor academy in preparation for the trustee's plans to establish new academies in the next period'.

To mitigate the risk of new academies failing to improve within 12 months, its accounts said it delayed establishing new academies until new trustees had been recruited and trained in the current financial year.

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