School in talks with multi-academy trust in bid to strengthen financial position

A Sheffield school which set out plans to close its sixth form is in talks with a multi-academy trust in a bid to secure its financial position – and further strike action at the secondary has been called off.

By The Star Newsroom
Tuesday, 16 April, 2019, 11:15

Bradfield School was issued with a ‘notice to improve’ by the Education and Skills Funding Agency after failing to submit audited statements which were due on December 31.

The secondary school near Worrall is forecast to end the academic year with a deficit of over £800,000, which led officials to question its viability as a standalone school.

Bradfield School, near Worrall, Sheffield.

Now in a letter to parents, school governors have revealed that Bradfield could be set to join the Tapton School Academy Trust as they move to secure a ‘much stronger financial position.’

They said: “One of the conditions of the ESFA moving forward is that we seek to join a larger Trust to help further secure our position.

“Work to join TSAT is underway; this process has to gain ministerial approval but it is something we are confident will progress throughout 2019-20 and will help us to not only strengthen our financial position, but also allow us access to the professional development opportunities TSAT (with access to an established Teaching School) will afford us.”

Teachers on the picket line at Bradfield School

Tapton School Academy Trust was established in 2011 and currently runs eight academies – comprising of five primary and three secondary schools – across Sheffield.

Tony Moody, Chair of Trustees at Bradfield School, said: “As one of Sheffield’s last remaining stand-alone academy secondary schools, we realise that we can only thrive in the rapidly changing educational landscape as a partner in a Multi-Academy Trust.

“We seek a Trust with which we can work collaboratively to achieve better outcomes for our students, that can support us to become financially stable, and that can help us provide a long-term solution to post-16 provision for our community.”

David Dennis, CEO, Tapton School Academy Trust, said: “We are really pleased that Bradfield School Trustees have approached us to consider Bradfield joining Tapton School Academy Trust.

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“We have many areas of alignment and well established links with the school. All parties are working together to ensure that the students of Bradfield School receive the support and development opportunities that they deserve.

“Once ministerial approval has been gained regarding the financial security of Bradfield School, the final decision will be agreed by the Board of TSAT, and if the transfer goes ahead we will communicate directly with staff, students and parents.”

In January, Bradfield announced plans to close its sixth form, blaming the ‘drastic and regrettable’ move on a lack of money and difficulties with recruiting enough students.

Last month around 40 staff members walked out in a dispute over the compulsory redundancies of 15 teachers.

They were joined by parents who expressed their anger over not only the job losses but also cuts to subjects such as art, music and drama.

But further industrial action has been called off after the National Education Union was told there would be no compulsory redundancies. Instead there will be voluntary redundancies, with the remaining staff reallocated.

Toby Mallinson, NEU joint branch secretary, said members were ‘glad’ with the outcome but ‘significant sacrifices’ were still being made to achieve the necessary savings.

“The precarious financial situation is the result of financial mismanagement over a number of years. The close knit and dedicated staff team will now focus on providing the excellent standard of education to their students that has made the school so popular amongst the community. They hope that, over time, this difficult period will be put behind them.”

He expressed concerns about Bradfield’s plan to join an academy trust.

“We hope that any such move is done with full transparency to both staff and community. Such a move must clearly justify how this will achieve financial savings without compromising quality of education or ethos of the school. Joining an academy trust usually involves the trust ‘top slicing’ between three and five per cent of a school’s budget to pay for their own costs, such as a chief executive."