Paignton Academy ‘will not close’ pledge as government sends finance warning

CREDIT: This story was first seen in Devon Live

The trust which runs Paignton Academy and two other schools in the town has come under fire over its finances. A stinging rebuke from the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency prompted worried parents to take to social media, concerned that the 2,000-pupil academy would close, Devon Live reports.

But today Stephen Kings, the CEO of the Bay Education Trust which runs Paignton Academy along with primary schools at Kings Ash and Curledge Street pledged: “Under no circumstances will it close. There are more than 2,000 children here.

“This is not terminal, and in terms of education standards the school is doing exceptionally well.”

The ESFA first sent a warning letter to the Trust last September, but the latest letter says there are still concerns about the ‘weak financial position and financial management’ at the Trust.

Signed by Mike Pettifer, the director for academies at the ESFA, the letter is ‘a written notice to improve financial management, control and governance’.

It acknowledges that the Trust has held ‘extensive discussions’ with the ESFA since the September warning, making changes to try to strengthen its financial position. But its position has not improved enough, meaning it now needs to commission external reviews into governance and financial management.

Mr Kings, who became CEO last April, said the Trust had a ‘severe’ cashflow crisis and its website shows a half-million-pound deficit in its last accounts. However, Mr Kings said, there would be a surplus of around £100,000 in the next accounts thanks to the measures put in place.

No redundancies have been made as yet as the Trust tries to balance its books.

“We are trying to get this deficit under control without destroying the education,” said Mr Kings. “We are not alone in having financial problems. There is scarcely a school in the country that hasn’t been affected in this way.

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“We want to keep the standards high while removing the deficit.”

The Academy has closed its sixth form as part of a package of measures to bring down the deficit.

“We anticipate being back on an even keel in 18 months to two years. We’re looking at more than £100,000 surplus this year, and more than that in years to come.

“I understand that parents have been concerned on social media, but I think parents are much more concerned about Ofsted than they are about something like this, and the Trust’s school are doing well in terms of education.

“We are all in this together.”

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