Education trust running Hartlepool and Sunderland schools announces change in chief executive following critical report

A leading schools' academy trust has confirmed a change in chief executive just 24 hours after a critical report from government inspectors.

Thursday, 23rd March 2017, 1:35 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:12 am

The Northern Education Trust (NET), which runs two comprehensive schools in Hartlepool and one in Sunderland, is said to have “failed to secure urgent and necessary improvements in too many of its schools”.

A report by the Office for Standards in Education also concludes that “a lack of direction by trustees and trust leaders on leadership systems and teaching strategies has stymied progress”.

While questioning the timing of the report’s release, which followed investigations in November and December last year, the trust also confirmed that chief executive Ian Kershaw is to be replaced by Rob Tarn in September.

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It insists, however, that a change of leadership was planned before the inspectors’ visit and that Mr Kershaw will remain with NET until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition.

The trust was chosen for what is known as a focused review amid concerns about the performance of a number of its 20 schools across the North of England.

Nine schools - but not those in either Hartlepool or Sunderland - were inspected to see if standards had improved since they were taken over by NET.

Only one was found to be good, the second highest of four categories, with the remaining eight classed as either inadequate or requiring improvement.

Manor Community Academy and Dyke House Sports and Technology College, in Hartlepool, and Red House Academy, in Sunderland, were among eight more schools which were then contacted by telephone to provide further evidence.

As a result, lead inspector Joanne Olsson’s conclusions also note: “Too few pupils attend a good or better school within this trust”.

Her report adds: “Trustees have been too slow in taking decisive action to secure effective school leadership from the start. They have allowed weak performance to go on for too long.”

In response, NET said it was “astonished” by timing of the report’s release and said it did not take into account “significant developments in our school improvement strategy”.

Mr Kershaw added: “Sustainable improvement can often take longer to achieve than government guidelines suggest, or we would all wish.

“But our commitment is to improving the life chances of the 11,000 children we are responsible for and ensuring that each of them enjoys school life and has access to a high standard of education.”

Manor, judged inaedequate in its last full inspection, has still to be inspected since NET’s takeover while Dyke House has slipped from outstanding to good.

Red House was deemed to require improvement in both 2014 and 2016.