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Head of country's largest academy chain steps down

The head of the country’s largest academy chain has stepped down from his role after five years at the helm, a period which has seen the group expand to 77 schools.

David Triggs, chief executive of academy sponsor the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), announced his departure a week ago last Friday, just before the start of the new academic year.

According to a spokesperson for the chain, Mr Triggs has taken the decision to retire after many years helping to turn around struggling schools.

Last year the Department for Education called on the chain to pause and consolidate amid concerns it was expanding too quickly.  

But the sponsor is expecting to add a further three academies bringing the number of schools under its control to 80 by next spring.  

A statement from the AET board was placed on the chain’s website stating that it had “reluctantly” accepted Mr Triggs’ departure. 

“He has been planning this for some time, in discussion with the chair and vice-chair of the AET board, but the announcement has been delayed to avoid the potential for unsettling staff during the crucial exam period,” the statement read.

“In reluctantly accepting David’s departure, the board of AET wishes to record its appreciation and gratitude for the immeasurable contribution to the creation and development of AET that David has made since its inception in 2008.”

Mr Triggs, who is believed to have been paid around £250,000 a year as CEO, becomes the second high-profile boss of a leading academy chain to step down this year.

Back in May, Sir Bruce Liddington resigned from his £280,000-a-year role as director general at E-Act, which sponsors around 33 academies.

As revealed by TES, Sir Bruce stepped down following a damning report by the Education Funding Agency into the financial management of the academy chain.    

The organisation, which is part of the DfE, found a culture of “extravagant” expenses paying for “large drinks bills, business lunches and first- class travel” all funded by public money.

The agency’s report added that expense and card payments by senior managers had “occasionally stretched the concept of propriety and value for money. Controls have been lax and some payments have tended to extravagance. However, we found no evidence of fraud.”

The DfE had prevented E-Act from taking on any more schools, while it was investigating the chain but the ban has since been lifted.  

AET announced Ian Comfort, currently group secretary, will taken over as interim chief executive.

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