An academy chain founded by a former adviser to David Cameron is to remain independent after managing to raise £400,000 through philanthropic donations.
Floreat Education Academies Trust was established in 2014 by Lord O’Shaughnessy, a former director of policy at Downing Street.
In October, TES revealed that the multi-academy trust was exploring a possible merger due to financial challenges. The MAT – which currently runs three primaries – was struggling to balance its books due to the relatively small amount of money that it could top-slice from its small chain of schools.
However Floreat has now been given the green light by the Department for Education to continue as an independent trust.
Lord O’Shaughnessy stepped down as Floreat’s managing director in February and was appointed as a minister in the Department of Health yesterday, but he will continue to serve as a trustee of the MAT.
Speaking to TES, he said: “The good news is we have been told by the DfE that they are happy for us to remain independent, because we have successfully fundraised the additional money we need to grow and they’re happy with the team and the business plan.”
He said the MAT had already identified £400,000 in philanthropic donations – mainly from grant giving foundations – and that it intends to raise the same again in the next 18 months to tide it over for the next three years.
Floreat will open two new schools next year, and Lord O’Shaughnessy said the trust’s financial position would continue to improve as it expands.
“This additional philanthropic capital was to enable us to get through the period when we’re growing - in our case the schools are literally filling up because they are free schools - until we get to a point where we’re big enough both in terms of the number of schools and how full each school is to be financially sustainable.”
He said it was a “challenge” for fledgling MATs to balance the books - particularly if they include free schools - because they are “small tiny units really to start with and yet they actually require a lot of support”. The government needs to make sure funding is available to support MAT growth, he said.
Lord O’Shaughnessy added: “We’re excited to have the chance to continue to promote our academic plus character model, which is really working at school level.
“There was never a problem about what was happening in the classroom – it was just this particular stage of our growth.”