Warning for academy trust over leadership 'collapse'

By John Roberts on 07 September 2020

Learning Link MAT given warning notice covering all of its schools after a 'serious breakdown' in the trust's operations

A multi-academy trust has received a damning letter from Department for Education officials over concerns about a "collapse" in leadership and "ongoing concerns over governance and malpractice".

The government has written to Learning Link Multi-Academy Trust, in Gloucestershire, to issue warnings over the future funding of all of its four schools - which could be rebrokered to other trusts.

Officials say there has been a collapse of the senior leadership team, with ongoing concerns over governance and malpractice.

This, they add, includes the resignation of the chair of trustees and the absence of a permanent chief executive.

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Letters from Andrew Warren, the regional schools commissioner for West Midlands, say there has been a “serious breakdown" in the way that the academies are managed or governed.

Letters have been sent to the trust regarding all four of its schools: Dudley Wood Primary, Kates Hill Primary, Netherbrook Primary and Sledmere Primary.

'Breakdown of trust and confidence' at academy chain

The RSC warns that there has a complete breakdown of trust and confidence between members, local governing boards and trustees.

It also reveals that the government has received votes of no confidence in the trustees and an acting chief executive from the local governing boards (LGB) of Kates Hill, Netherbrook, and Dudley Wood schools.

The letter from the RSC adds: “The relationship between the trustees and LGBs/members of an academy trust is vital to ensure the trust is operating effectively and in the best interests of children. Where a breakdown of this nature and extent has occurred, I cannot be satisfied that the trust is capable of operating effectively.

“The collapse of the senior leadership team (SLT) due to ongoing concerns over governance and malpractice. This includes the resignation of the chair of trustees and the absence of a permanent CEO for whom temporary cover has been provided for which you have not provided a plan to resolve this.

“Stability at SLT level is key at any time but becomes increasingly important when a trust is facing the challenges currently faced by your trust – for example, rebuilding the financial position of the trust from the cumulative deficit at the end of the 2018-19 year – which is not yet confirmed due to the outstanding financial statements – and improving the financial reporting, as the trust’s monthly management accounts do not meet the expected standard of the Financial Notice to Improve or the Academies Financial Handbook.”

The letters from the RSC give the trust a series of targets to achieve.

This included the trust setting out its plans and timeline for confirming the permanent leadership of the trust at chief executive and chief financial officer level by 6 August, and all LGBs and members holding a vote of confidence in the trustees.

The RSC letter says the other resolution to the situation would be for the trust to "confirm its commitment" to transferring schools out of the trust by 29 July of this year and to have completed the transfer of schools by January next year. 

The trust has been contacted for comment.

Tes asked the Department for Education if the trust met these targets.

A spokesperson for the department said: “We have issued a termination warning notice to Linked Learning multi academy trust due to ongoing concerns about the governance and oversight of financial management by the board.

“We will continue to work with the trust as we consider next steps.”