England's biggest academy chain takes on first new school in five years

Academies Enterprise Trust chief executive says the move marks a new era for the chain that had been 'paused' by the DfE

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The country’s biggest academy chain has taken on a new school for the first time since its growth was halted by the Department for Education five years ago.

Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has been seen as an example of a high profile academy chain which grew too fast in the early days of the programme.

However AET’s chief executive Julian Drinkall said the decision to take on a new primary school marked a new era for the trust which was rectifying its mistakes of the past.

Hockley Primary School, in Essex, will formally join the trust in September this year.

Last summer the DfE lifted its Financial Notice to Improve on AET which had been imposed in 2014. The growth of the academy chain had been paused by the department  a year earlier.

Mr Drinkall told Tes last month that the Government was now happy for AET to start expanding its primary and special school numbers again, but not secondary schools.

Announcing its move to sponsor Hockley Primary School today he said: “Following a series of major changes to how AET operates, last summer the Department for Education lifted its Financial Notice to Improve on the trust, which effectively blocked any schools joining the organisation. Last summer also saw a significant improvement in our Key Stage 2 results.

 “Hockley Primary School joining us now marks a new era for AET; the mistakes of the past are being rectified and we are all looking towards a much more positive future in which every single child thrives.”

The academy will open as an AET school in September this year.

Melissa Heatherson, headteacher of Hockley Primary School said: “As an outstanding school we are in an incredibly strong position with an outstanding leadership, teaching and support staff team who are fully committed and devoted to ensuring that Hockley Primary School always achieves the very best for our pupils.

“We never stand still and are always forward thinking and endeavour to seek out the best opportunities for our school, always with the highest standards of education in mind."

She said detailed discussions with AET had shown it had a strong new direction.

The Tes revealed last month that despite its progress AET it is still set to have more of its existing schools transferred to other sponsors. AET has already lost more than a tenth of the 77 schools it had at its peak.

 

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