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Masthead Education - Schools

Council lawyers to seek return of £230k paid to academy chain

Northumberland County Council is seeking to recover money paid to the Bright Tribe academy chain after it pulled out of running a school in Hexham.

A council spokesperson told Local Government Lawyer: “We can confirm that the council's legal services department will be writing to the Department for Education concerning the return of funding paid to Bright Tribe in respect of Haydon Bridge High School.”

Schools Week has reported that the council wants £230,000 returned after Bright Tribe abandoned its take over of the school, citing low pupil numbers and a high deficit.

It said the £230,000 was funding from the Department for Education passed on to the trust by Northumberland.

An Ofsted inspection published in 2015 showed the school as inadequate in leadership, pupil behaviour and achievement and teaching quality, while sixth form provision ‘requires improvement’, after which the DfE asked Bright Tribe to take the school on.

Ofsted stated in a follow-up inspection report in May 2017: “Leaders and managers are not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures.”

Bright Tribe did not respond to a request for comment.

But in a statement published last November it said that since its involvement began in 2015 “progress relating to the transfer of the school has been hindered by the school’s significant and increasing financial deficit.

“In the period, the school has seen a significant reduction in the number of pupils on roll and there is no sign of this increasing, in fact there has been a steady decline over the last five years. The comparatively small number of pupils on roll has had an insurmountable impact on the school’s long-term viability.”

Bright Tribe said it had “invested heavily in the school” including appointing a regional executive principal and principal to work alongside the school’s staff and that examination results had improved.

It went on: “However the financial position and long-term viability of the school presents a significant financial risk to the trust and its portfolio of other schools and Bright Tribe Trust therefore concludes that it can no longer continue to support Haydon Bridge High School.”

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