An academy trust with 12 schools has become the first in England to give up control of all its academies, following concerns about educational standards.
Five of the schools sponsored by the Education Fellowship Trust (TEFT) – which is responsible for the education of about 6,500 students in Northamptonshire, Wiltshire and Maidenhead, Berkshire – are rated "inadequate" by Ofsted.
Of these, three were issued with termination warning notices last September, while a fourth warning came in January.
Three of the trust's other schools are rated "requires improvement", while four are "good".
The schools will have to be "rebrokered" to new sponsors. TES today revealed concerns about potential conflicts of interest in the transfer process.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Following ongoing concerns regarding the educational performance of the majority of The Education Fellowship Trust schools, we have agreed to a request from the trust to terminate their funding agreement.
“One of the strengths of the academy system is that where underperformance is not addressed, we are able to take action to tackle it. Our priority now is to work with the trust to transfer its schools to new sponsors to drive up standards and ensure all pupils receive an excellent education.”
DfE 'must share the blame'
Lizzie Rowe, chief operating office of TEFT, said it “has requested to transfer all of its 12 academies to new sponsors following a review of financial constraints facing the education sector and the misalignment of values with the DfE".
She added: “TEFT’s priority at this time is to ensure a smooth and timely transfer that minimises impact on the pupils, staff, parents and local communities at the schools.”
The trust, which was originally known as the Education Schools Trust, has twice been under a financial notice to improve, the most recent of which was issued last September.
Last year, the Education Funding Agency investigated the trust, after receiving allegations about governance and its legal framework.
It found that the trust’s financial position was “vulnerable”, and told it to update its legal and governance framework, and appoint more independent trustees.