New accounts reveal a raft of financial failings at a controversial academy trust which was given extra cash by the government to raise standards in the North but will be now be wound up after handing over all its schools.
Reports into Bright Tribe Trust and the linked Adventure Learning Academy Trust (ALAT) show a catalogue of shortcomings in the oversight of how public money was being spent.
It also raises concern about the unsafe conditions at Whitehaven Academy which had been run by Bright Tribe.
Ten schools have been rebrokered out of both trusts during the past academic year and the trusts are now set to be wound up in the next 12 months.
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Bright Tribe was once backed by the Department for Education with a share of £5m to create a hub of northern schools.
However, it has since pulled out of all its schools after facing a series of controversies over standards and finances.
New accounts for Bright Tribe say there was a lack of evidence about how capital grants were spent, a lack of rigour in declaring conflict of interests when awarding contracts and a lack of clarity on how Northern hub funding from the government was spent.
Angela Barry, the interim chief executive of both trusts said there had also been a blurring of the lines between the use of funding to both Bright Tribe and ALAT and two private companies, “especially Bright Tribe Facilities Management services supplied to Bright Tribe Trust”.
And she said there was insufficient evidence of Bright Tribe’s accounting officer’s role having been fulfilled during 2017-18.
Ms Barry also raises a series of non financial concerns including the inadequate and unsafe condition of the Whitehaven Academy site and premises and the poor condition of the original Grindon Hall Christian School building.
She also warned there had been a lack of performance management and appraisal processes at Bright Tribe in place “to sufficiently ensure improvements for pupils’ provision.”
And she said a lack of support and training for newly appointed staff, especially those new to headship, left some of the schools in danger of being vulnerable.
Accounts for ALAT for the year ending 31 August 2018 were also published today.
The reports describe ALAT and Bright Tribe as being linked as a result of Helping Hands Trust Limited being a member of both trusts until it resigned in July 2018.
At ALAT Ms Barry said there has been a lack of rigour when declaring related parties or conflicts of interest when awarding contracts.
She also warned of “insufficient evidence of segregation of duties in procurement and decision-making in relation to capital and other premises-related projects and expenditure.”
A spokesperson for both trusts said: “Interim Trustees and executive leaders were appointed to the Trusts just under a year ago – in that time, working with the Department for Education, they have achieved the successful rebrokerage of all the Trusts’ schools to strong new academy trusts, providing thousands of children and young people with the support, expertise and stability required to deliver the high-quality education they deserve.
“What happened in the trusts before their appointments was unacceptable. It led to a number of external investigations into procurement processes, oversight, governance and the spending of public money, and because of health and safety concerns around the condition of some of the schools.
"The interim board of trustees expects to wind up the academy trusts within the next 12 months.”