Birmingham & Black Country

Head of under-fire academy trust in Birmingham resigns

Gove and Cameron at Perry Beeches
Image caption Prime Minister David Cameron and then Education Secretary Michael Gove were at the opening of Perry Beeches III free school in 2013

The head of a flagship multi-academy trust praised by the prime minister has resigned, leaving its five schools with an uncertain future.

Chief executive of Birmingham's Perry Beeches Academy Trust Liam Nolan is stepping aside so the trust "can move forward", staff have been told.

Two free schools due to be set up by the trust have been "paused".

The Education Funding Agency criticised the trust in March for "significant weakness in financial management".

Information from a whistleblower prompted the agency investigation, which found an additional salary of £160,000 was paid to Mr Nolan, over two years, through a third-party agreement - on top of his £120,000-a-year salary.

It was issued with a financial notice to improve.

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The Department for Education said interim governance arrangements to ensure the schools' management had been put in place. The existing governing body is reported to be stepping down.

'Enormous support'

The academy and free school trust, which has also been praised by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and her predecessor Michael Gove, runs five schools and looks after 2,400 pupils.

Image caption Liam Nolan said he had "thoroughly enjoyed his time at Perry Beeches"

Mr Nolan told staff in a message, that he had resigned "to allow... necessary changes required to move the trust forward".

He had "thoroughly enjoyed his time at Perry Beeches since joining in 2007". It said he "would like it known that... it has been a privilege to work alongside colleagues, families and young people in the schools".

It added that Mr Nolan "would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the enormous support during his time at Perry Beeches" and to wish everyone "the very best" for the future.

A statement by the academies trust said it had created "a new executive board which includes head teachers from all the schools to ensure no distraction from the core business of educating its pupils and helping them reach their full potential".

'Not disrupted'

It added: "A new Transition Board of Trustees has been put in place to continue with governance responsibilities and work closely with the DfE and Education Funding Agency

"The trust has been working closely with the EFA in relations to concerns surrounding Governance and Financial Irregularities following last years investigation and Financial Notice to Improve. An Action Plan has been put in place with the support of the EFA to address all concerns."

Two planned free schools, Perry Beeches Primary I and Perry Beeches VI, have been placed on "pause" by education minister Lord Nash.

The DfE said in a statement: "Our priority is ensuring the education of pupils is not disrupted.

"Perry Beeches Academy Trust (PBAT) has already put in place interim governance arrangements to ensure the ongoing leadership and management of the schools are not affected.

"The Regional Schools Commissioner, Pank Patel, is working with the trust to secure future, permanent, governance arrangements. It would be inappropriate to discuss matters regarding the future of PBAT and its schools at this stage."

'Limited records'

The development comes just a few days after the government withdrew its plans to require all schools to become academies.

Conservative backbench MPs, councillors and opposition politicians had campaigned against the plan. Head teachers and education establishment figures also criticised the notion that schools would be forced to make the change in management structure.

In March, the academy chain was told to pay back £118,000 in government funding.

The trust claimed about £2.8m from the EFA for free school meals, but only kept limited records of its entitlements.

An EFA report said this was a breach of government guidelines. The trust said it was a genuine administrative error.

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