Charity sponsor of 10 academies could spend £900,000 on PR agency

Charity sponsor of 10 academies in Norfolk and Suffolk could spend £900,000 on PR agency

CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Eastern Daily Press

Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) – which supports 31 academies around the country, including six in Norfolk and four in Suffolk – has issued a tender document for “marketing, media relations and crisis management services”, which would run for two years with an option to extend for another year, according to PR Week.

The Eastern Daily Press reports that the contract would be worth an estimated £900,000, excluding VAT, and would include helping to prepare “good news stories”.

The trust’s schools have hit the headlines in recent years.

In March 2015, a teaching assistant was jailed after she hacked into two pupils’ email accounts and made a bomb threat at Ormiston Victory Academy in Costessey.

The same school came under fire after claims it was given unfair advance notice of inspections in 2013.

A 12-year-old girl was also taken out of classes at Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston in 2015 because the heels on her shoes did not match the school’s uniform policy.

Two years earlier, teachers at Ormiston Maritime Academy – in Grimsby – resigned after an investigation into claims they used the school’s IT system to send inappropriate photographs.

A spokesperson for OAT said the figure would be the “very upper limit” of the contract cost and that they currently spend £163 per month per academy on PR.

“This is to provide long term flexibility, but we do not anticipate spending this much,” they spokesperson said.

“OAT chooses to outsource elements of professional services support in this way as we are determined to get best value for money and ensure our teaching staff are able to stay focused on delivering the highest standards of education for our students.”

They said they had a “strong reputation for taking on some of the toughest challenges in education”.

Scott Lyons, joint division secretary for the Norfolk National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “We are surprised by this as the NUT has been really pleased with what Ormiston schools are doing – in particular with staff recruitment.

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“We would question where this money is coming from and ask whether it should really be spent on branding.”