Head teacher is latest to leave new academy trust

Ernulf Academy stock shot

Ernulf Academy stock shot - Credit: Archant

Ernulf’s head teacher, Tracy Brogan, has left the St Neots secondary school, the Hunts Post can confirm, as the trust that runs the facility announced a new leadership team had been appointed to help drive financial and educational outcomes for pupils.

Ms Brogan joins her Longsands counterpart Martin Paine, who was replaced in March, just six months after the two schools joined a new educational trust.

The academies were transferred from the St Neots Learning Partnership (SNLP) to the Astrea Trust in September last year. Former SNLP chief executive, Rick Carroll left in November, and the SNLP is now in the process of being formally wound-up.

Astrea announced it had appointed Hywel Jones as educational director and he will have responsibility for Longsands, while Avin Bissoo has been named as head teacher at Ernulf.

On the appointment of Mr Bissoo, the trust said in a statement: "We can confirm that Avin Bissoo has been appointed as principal of Ernulf. A dynamic and energetic leader, we have every confidence that he will lead the academy through this next phase of its development. Ms Brogan has said that she believes Ernulf Academy will go from strength to strength and she wishes all the very best to the students, staff and parents and carers."

There is well documented evidence to show Ernulf had struggled in recent years and low pupil numbers means it attracted lower funding. The Government pays schools through an annual grant based on pupil numbers and although Ernulf has capacity for 1,331 pupils, as of May 2018, it only had 541 pupils on the roll.

When Astrea took on the SNLP it assumed all financial responsibilities and, according to documentation lodged at Companies House, is facing turning around a financial deficit of more than £1million. Accounts filed in August 2018 showed the deficit of income over expenditure for the previous financial year amounted to £1,028.140 compared to a deficit of £421,885 the previous year.

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In a statement, Astrea said: "When Astrea took on both schools we took responsibility for the considerable debts that had mounted up in both schools.

"Both were also struggling educationally, with GCSE results having declined and Ofsted grades going backwards."

Ofsted reports show that Ernulf was rated as 'requires improvement' in 2014 and 2016 and an Ofsted monitoring report in March 2018 noted there had been some improvement but said progress had been "unacceptably low". Longsands was rated as 'good' at its last inspection in October, 2014.

Chairman of trustees for the SNLP, Karl Wainwright, said any suggestion that either school had been underperforming financially or educationally was "not factually correct".

"It would be correct to say that due to failing student numbers at Ernulf over a significant number of years, the school has had to implement a number of efficiency initiatives and redundancies. Despite this, there had been improvements in student outcomes, and in order to further support the school it was right to merge with a larger trust."

He continued: "As with all schools nationally, Longsands had put in place a number of efficiency savings but was not in the same financial difficulty and, in a recent inspection, maintained its Ofsted 'good' rating. The merger with a larger trust will enable greater access to continued professional development for staff and wider opportunities for students. Longsands did not have any financial issues at the time the school was transferred to Astrea.

"All of these points and issues had been raised by the St Neots Learning Partnership with the DFE, ESFA and the regional schools commissioner over the past few years. "That is why we chose to move the schools to Astrea; it was our strategy that put these wheels in motion. Astrea was made fully aware of the financial situation of Ernulf and its recent performance data at the first meeting held between them and the SNLP in March 2018 and therefore they agreed to take on both schools with full disclosure in place.

"I cannot comment with regard to people or positions that have changed since Astrea took over the schools in September 2018 as this has all happened post the tenure of the SNLP."