Teachers at the controversial Durand Academy Trust have been given until noon tomorrow to come up with a plan to keep its boarding school open and save their jobs.
The future of the South London-based trust, which has a history of being feted by politicians including Michael Gove, already hangs in the balance after the Education and Skills Funding Agency withdrew its funding agreement last month.
Now, Tes understands that a decision could be taken to close its free boarding school, based at its St Cuthman’s site in West Sussex, as early as next week.
At a meeting held last Thursday – the day before the end of term – staff attended a meeting called by the governing body.
They were told that the boarding school faces a funding shortfall of £500,000, which is felt to be unsustainable.
The staff were told that the prospect of closing the school had to be considered, but that they had until the following Tuesday to submit any suggestions for how this could be avoided.
Tes understands that attendees were told 19 staff would potentially face redundancy if the school closed. The number of staff who need to be affected before statutory collective consultation rights kick in is 20.
The regional secretary of the NUT teaching union's London branch, Martin Powell-Davies – who was not the source of the story – said: “A genuine consultation would require a much longer period of time for staff and other stakeholders to make alternative proposals.
"We have expressed our dismay at hearing that there is a real prospect that the site will close with effect from 31 August 2017. For staff and parents to be faced with this situation, just as they leave for the summer break, is clearly wholly inappropriate."
The boarding school has faced doubts over its financial viability in the past, and lost a planning battle to expand its site. Last year, Tes revealed Durand had recruited a head of boarding who was subject to a professional misconduct hearing.
The decision by the ESFA to withdraw funding from the trust followed serious concerns over governance at the academy trust, which was founded by Sir Greg Martin, its former executive headteacher.
Sir Greg was previously criticised after it was revealed that he earned almost £400,000 in a year by running a private business on the school site as well as taking his headteacher's salary.
Durand's funding is due to be cut on 29 June 2018, and the Department for Education has said it will transfer the school to a new sponsor.
Sir Greg has vowed to fight a legal battle over the termination of the funding agreement.
The trust has been contacted for comment.