Country’s largest primary MAT pools schools’ cash

Accounts for Reach2 also reveal a rise in the number of its schools with deficits in 2018

Sir Steve Lancashire

England’s largest primary academy chain decided to centrally pool schools’ cash in 2018, its accounts reveal.

Reach2’s accounts also show that more of its schools reported a deficit in 2018.

Reach2 operates 55 primary academies across the country. Its accounts for the year ended 31 August 2018 state that “during the academic year a reserves policy was implemented across all schools to pool centrally the cash balances of all academies into a central deposit account with the accounting of reserves remaining at school level".

The accounts say that “a number of consultations took place” prior to the policy being implemented, and that it would be “reviewed during the 2018-19 academic year to ensure operational effectiveness and procedural accuracy”.

According to a report published today, only a small minority of multi-academy trusts have taken the same decision as Reach2 and pooled academies' resources.

The Kreston Academies Benchmark report says that just 5 per cent of MATs are planning to centralise their funding, despite the approach being supported by the Department for Education.

Reach2’s accounts reveal that more of its schools recorded a deficit in 2018. In 2017 four of its schools reported a deficit, but in 2018 this had grown to seven. The largest deficit was at Brampton Primary Academy in Kent, which had a shortfall of £308,000.

The accounts also give a candid picture of the underperformance of some of Reach2’s academies.

For example at Copperfield Academy in Kent, the accounts note that “there was instability in leadership arrangements in 2017-18, which lead to a decline in standards”.

“A new substantive headteacher took up post in May 2017, however the school continued to decline and actions taken to secure improvements were not effective due to ineffective leadership.

“The school was robustly monitored and supported by the [regional director] and regional team and whilst a [Department for Education] visit in February 2018 found that trust actions were well judged and fit for purpose, they were not having enough impact due to poor leadership at school level.

“The headteacher departed the school in summer 2018 and the school continues to go through a period of considerable turbulence. Internal evaluations of the school judge the school to be inadequate.”

Meanwhile at Milton Court Academy in Kent, the accounts say that outcomes in 2017 were “exceptionally poor”.

However, they say that by the end of 2018, “inadequate teaching had been eliminated, with teachers having either made the necessary improvements or choosing to depart the school”.

Reach2's chief executive, Sir Steve Lancashire, earned £230-£240,000 in 2018, down from £240-250,000 in 2017. However, rather than having his salary cut, Tes understands this was because in 2017 Sir Steve took a bonus which had accrued in a previous year. But his salary remained the same.

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