A network of powerful academy leaders who have been meeting secretly for more than a year are planning to form a new body to represent academy trust leaders, Tes can reveal.
The termly get-togethers of what is currently known as the Queen Street Group have involved 20 to 30 leaders of some of the biggest academy chains in England, with a broad geographical spread.
The network was created by Toby Salt, formerly the chief executive of Ormiston Academies Trust, which has 32 schools, and Marc Jordan, the CEO of the Creative Education Trust, which has 11.
Professor Salt described the group as an "informal network" and said its discussions had been held on a Chatham House rule basis, so he was unable to discuss what subjects the chief executives had been discussing.
However, Tes understands the topics debated include controversial and sensitive issues, such as the salaries of academy trust leaders and how academies are re-brokered from one academy chain to another.
Professor Salt told Tes: “The group was set up to enable its members to provide each other with support and advice and share what works, as well as engaging with relevant aspects of education policy.
“It has met once a term during 2016-17 and has been well-received by those taking part, who have found it a valuable forum for engagement and discussion.”
Professor Salt, who is stepping back from the group after becoming the chief executive of the exam board AQA, added: “The group is now evolving, and plans to set itself up on a more formal footing in due course.”
The Department for Education has not been involved. Tes understands that the meetings have not been paid for using taxpayers’ money.