The head of England’s biggest group of schools has quit after mounting criticism of its rapid expansion and large number of high-risk academies needing extensive support. This is from the Times…
David Triggs stepped down last week as chief executive of the Academies Enterprise Trust, a charity that by next spring will run 80 schools.
Friends said that Mr Triggs, 60, had retired and that the decision to go was entirely his. But AET had been barred by the Department for Education (DfE) from taking over more failing schools amid concern over its recent record of school improvement and the challenges within its existing group of academies.
His departure coincides with a tougher approach to the performance of academy sponsors within the DfE, which is said to reflect the hands-on style of Lord Nash, who became minister in charge of academies in January.
Lord Nash, a former venture capitalist, was himself the sponsor of Pimlico Academy in London and is said to be more demanding of existing and new academy sponsors than his predecessor, Lord Hill of Oareford, whose approach was more laissez faire.
Mr Triggs is the second leader of a chain of academies to quit this year after E-Act, which runs 31 academies and free schools, announced in April that Sir Bruce Liddington, its £280,000-a-year director general, would leave in the autumn.
…Mr Triggs, who was paid around £250,000 at AET, raised concerns of a different nature with the explosive growth in five years of an academy chain that in 2008 amounted to just three schools. Former colleagues described him as an “Essex wide boy” and wheeler-dealer who got things done using his energy and force of personality, often bypassing bureaucratic hurdles.
He spent 15 years as principal of Greensward Academy in Hockley, Essex, turning it into the flagship school for what became a nationwide chain of academies, from the Isle of Wight to Middlesbrough. It now has 34 secondary schools, 36 primaries and 7 special schools and will take on 3 previously approved by the DfE by next spring.
Friends of Mr Triggs say that its expansion was at the prompting of first Labour ministers and then Michael Gove, or in response to invitations from struggling schools seeking a sponsor, and that its strategy had always been to consolidate with 80 schools.
…AET has appointed Ian Comfort, its group secretary, as interim chief executive and will seek a permanent replacement in due course.
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