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‘Zombie’ academies left in limbo for up to 23 months

Concerns that schools waiting to transfer academy trusts cannot plan ahead or hire new staff

35 'zombie' schools have waited more than six months to move academy trusts.

A total of 35 “zombie schools” have been waiting more than six months to be transferred from one academy trust to another, new data has shown.

Figures obtained by the Labour Party show the amount of time that academies have been waiting to move to a new academy trust after the regional schools commissioner decided that they should transfer.

Four schools have been waiting between one and two years to be re-brokered, with the most extreme taking 23 months so far.

The re-brokering process has become increasingly common in recent years, with a record 255 transferred in the financial year 2017-18.

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Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “Despite leaving almost 100 schools in limbo [the Conservatives] are taking no direct action to ensure that schools are re-brokered quickly and effectively to ensure that schools and pupils get the support they need.

“Parents are right to be concerned that their children’s schools cannot make long-term planning decisions or hire new members of staff.

“The next Labour government will address this, allowing academies to return to their local authority as part of the re-brokering process.”

In his response to a parliamentary question from Ms Rayner, DfE minister Nadhim Zahawi said a "substantial majority" of transfers are voluntary agreements between trusts, such as single academy trusts joining multi-academy trusts.

He added that delays can be caused by land issues, private finance initiative contracts or the process of transferring staff.

There are currently 93 academies that Labour described as “zombie schools” waiting to be re-brokered, which Labour calculated could currently be educating more than 53,000 pupils.

Of the 93, 11 have been waiting less than a month, and 47 have waited between one month and six months.

A total of 48 are primary schools, 42 are secondary schools, and two are special schools. One is for alternative provision.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “One of the key strengths of the academy system is that it operates under a strict system of oversight and accountability.

“It means in any instances of under-performance we can take swift action, including transferring schools to new sponsors on the rare occasions this is necessary.

“In 2017-18, only 255 academies successfully transferred trust in England, accounting for just 3.3 per cent of all academies.

“Rebrokerage can happen due to a range of reasons, usually because a stand-alone academy is voluntarily becoming part of a trust, and where it is necessary we work closely with the schools affected through the regional schools commissioners and their teams to make sure pupils’ education isn't adversely affected.

“Where schools have been judged inadequate by Ofsted, they must have plans in place to improve, even whilst they are they are awaiting a new sponsor.”

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