Sponsor found for last Bright Tribe school in North

Re-brokering deal marks the end of troubled chain's involvement in northern schools

John Roberts

Bright Tribe is handing over its last school in the North

A primary school is being re-brokered out of the troubled Bright Tribe academy chain – marking the end of its doomed attempt to become a leading sponsor of schools in the North of England.

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 but one of its schools in the North after facing a series of controversies over standards and finances.

It has been announced today that a sponsor has been found for Bright Tribe's last remaining Northern school, Werneth Primary in Oldham.

It will now be run by the Pinnacle Learning Trust, which was set up by The Hathershaw College and Oldham Sixth Form College.

Last month, it was announced that a search was on for sponsors to take on the last six schools run by Bright Tribe: Werneth Primary and five in the East of England.

Bright Tribe had been one of five academy groups tasked with raising standards in the North by the DfE in 2015, along with Wakefield City Academies Trust, which has also faced problems and is now being wound up.

Bright Tribe has been engulfed in controversy. It gave up Whitehaven Academy, in Cumbria, following a damning Ofsted inspection and after school staff asked to leave the trust, complaining of poor exam results and “dilapidated” buildings.

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison told education secretary Damian Hinds at a select committee hearing in June this year that the nuclear industry has been forced to step in to provide computers at a school because of the failings of Bright Tribe.

The Conservative MP also said that teachers and pupils at Whitehaven Academy were forced to work in classrooms of 36C heat because faulty windows had to be nailed shut in the school building.

The MP was escorted off the school site during a visit.

In 2017, Bright Tribe pulled out of a plan to take on Haydon Bridge High School, in Northumberland, citing the size of the school's financial deficit.

It has since pulled out of three other schools it sponsored in the North East.

There has also been controversy over the trust's finances.

Tes revealed earlier this year that the trust had paid more than £680,000 in related-party transactions.

And the government is looking to recover money from Bright Tribe amid questions about how it was used.

The DfE is said to be trying to recoup up to £321,775 from the academy trust because it does not have proof that the money was spent on its intended purpose.

According to a report by the BBC, at least some of the money that the DfE is interested in was given to Bright Tribe for LED lighting by the Education Skills and Funding Agency in 2015. But the lighting was reportedly never installed.

In August, a DfE spokeswoman said: “Where funding is allocated to an academy trust for a specific reason, we expect it to be used for that. We are now recovering funding from the Bright Tribe trust.”

Bright Tribe has been under interim executive leadership and a new board since the summer. The interim chief executive officer is Angela Barry and Lee Miller is its interim chief operating officer.

Commenting on the re-brokering of Werneth Primary, Ms Barry said: "I am pleased that a new sponsor has been identified for Werneth Primary School. This is an exciting new chapter for the school under a new multi-academy trust which will provide the pupils, parents and staff with the support, expertise and stability that will deliver a high-quality education.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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