Academy will turn things around

Atherton Community School

An academy trust which manages Atherton Community School has been propped up with a £750,000 cash injection from one of the government’s executive agencies.

But bosses at Chapel Street Community Schools Trust are confident they can turn around the fortunes of the organisation, which also manages Burnley High School in the north-west, and a number of southern establishments.

The Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) advanced the £750,000 for Chapel Street during the last financial year and it should be repaid when the academies trust eventually moves into profit.

Currently the trust is operating under a financial notice to improve, issued by the Department of Education in 2016, amid concerns over its financial stability.

In the latest accounts for Chapel Street, trustees say pupil recruitment at Atherton Community School has improved “and its popularity continues to increase.

However this has been offset by the decision to close the sixth form in July, due to low student numbers.

The in-year reserves for the Hamilton Street school has also dropped from a £263,844 deficit to £438,545, which has also been related to the loss of the sixth form.

One of the main focuses in the last summer term was the first Year 11 cohort to take their GCSEs there. Increased attention has also been paid by leaders to assessment and effective teaching and learning methods.

Auditor Robert Kirtland said: “The continued financial support of ESFA, beyond these existing funding arrangements, will be necessary for the trust to continue as a going concern.”

Sir David Bell, trustees chairman, said in the accounts that Chapel Street would be looking to see whether it could expand by recruiting existing academies into the fold or creating new schools over the coming year.

He added: “Against this strategic ambition for the trust is to deliver a range of financial, system and governance improvements such that the medium-term is assured and the requirements of the financial notice to improve are dealt with, and the trust maintains the ever-improving controls surrounding finance and governance.”

The multi-academy trust took over at Atherton in September 2012.

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