Exclusive: David Ross MAT losing CEO and leading head

Rowena Hackwood quits as chief executive at David Ross Education Trust, as trust also seeks new head for free school

Rowena Hackwood is leaving the David Ross Education Trust academy chain

The chief executive of one of the country’s biggest academy chains has resigned after less than three years in the job, Tes can reveal.

Rowena Hackwood is stepping down as the chief executive of David Ross Education Trust (DRET), which runs 34 schools across the country, at the end of the academic year.

DRET is also looking to recruit a new principal for a major new free school in London.


Quick read: MAT boss says its hard to argue for autonomy

ProfileRowena Hackwood

Background: MAT's ratings by Ofsted revealed


The Bobby Moore Academy, which opened in 2017 and has primary and secondary sites in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, advertised for a new leader last month.

Lawrence Foley is leaving his role as executive principal at the school, having joined in May last year.

DRET has now hired international executive recruitment firm Perrett Laver to run the process to appoint a new chief executive for the trust.

Multi-academy trust boss steps down

The former national schools commissioner, Sir David Carter, has paid tribute to Ms Hackwood for her work taking on what he described as “one of the most challenging trusts”.

DRET has faced high-profile financial challenges in recent times.

Last year a financial management and governance review published by the Department for Education had said that DRET was in a vulnerable financial position with a forecast deficit of £4.9 million and was looking to save money through “pooled regional budgets for all academy back-office functions.”

The review was carried out in May of 2017, as Ms Hackwood was joining DRET, but was only published by the department more than a year later in July 2018.

The trust’s most recently published accounts for last year show a deficit of £1.4 million at August 2018.

Ms Hackwood spoke publicly this year at a Westminster Education Forum event about her trust’s decision to pool DRET schools' general annual grant funding and to also pool individual schools' deficits and surpluses into the central trust.

In an interview with Tes last year. she said DRET was a network of schools and that autonomy "doesn’t really have a place within that".

The MAT runs academies in East Midlands, London, the North East and Yorkshire . 

David Ross, the chair of DRET, paid tribute to Ms Hackwood’s work and highlighted  the trust’s recent key stage 2 results as an example of “substantial improvements in our academic performance”.

The trust was ranked top of the national league table for both KS2 progress and attainment for MATs with more than 20 primaries.

Mr Ross, the founder of Carphone Warehouse and sponsor of the trust that carries his name, said: “Rowena has shared her intention with the trust that she will be stepping down as chief executive at the end of the school year. On behalf of everyone at DRET, I would like to thank Rowena for her work and to wish her the very best for the future.

“The trust has come together with a much clearer sense of purpose since Rowena’s arrival – broadening our pupils’ horizons by providing a world-class education – and the entire team has worked hard to achieve this. 

“The results of the recent key stage 2 assessments are indicative of the team’s work to deliver substantial improvements in our academic performance, which will continue in the year ahead. Alongside this, we remain proud of our world-class enrichment offer, which supports our efforts to change the outcomes and aspirations in all the communities in which we work.”

Sir David, who was national schools commissioner until last year, said: “Rowena took on one of the most challenging trusts and has done a wonderful job in building the capacity, confidence and capability of the organisation to deliver the improvements, especially in the primary academies, that were seen in the summer of 2019.

"Her leadership has been visionary and clear-sighted and I sincerely hope she will play a role in the school trust sector for many years to come.”

New tables were produced this year by FFT Education Datalab ranking multi-academy trusts in primary and secondary phases on the outcomes of their schools' Ofsted inspections.

In the tables, DRET was ranked 144th out of 232 trusts for the performance of its primary schools – with 83.7 per cent rated "good" or better.

In the secondary tables for MAT Ofsted ratings, the trust was ranked 52nd out of 78 trusts – with 66.7 per cent of its schools rated "good".

Earlier this year DRET was given a pre-termination warning notice by the DfE  for Lodge Park Academy, a secondary school in Corby, which was placed in special measures in January.

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