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Norfolk academy trust ordered to improve ‘weak financial position’

PUBLISHED: 08:38 15 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:38 15 September 2018

Pic: Archant Library.

Pic: Archant Library.

Archant

A Norfolk trust which educates vulnerable children has once again been told it must improve its “weak financial position” by bringing in more experienced people to help run it.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency this week sent a financial improvement notice to improve to the Engage Multi Academy Trust. It follows a similar warning in March this year.

The trust, which is based on Drayton High Road, educates many of the county’s excluded and vulnerable children at the Pinetree School in Thetford, for children who have struggled in mainstream education, and the Short Stay School for Norfolk (SSSfN).

The SSSfN has four main constituent schools - the Brooklands School at Gorleston, the Douglas Bader School at Coltishall, Norwich’s Locksley School and the Rosebery School in King’s Lynn.

It also offers specialist provision at The Earthsea School in Honingham and at The Compass in Belton.

In the notice, sent to the trust’s chairman Philip Harris, Mike Pettifer, from the Education and Skills Funding Agency wrote: “I recognise the cooperation and extensive discussions that have taken place between the trust and officials and the changes you have already made to strengthen accounting and internal financial controls.

“However, my concerns remain in relation to the weak financial position and financial management at the trust.”

He said the notice had been served as the trust had accrued a “significant debt” and had breached the Academies Financial Trust Handbook as there had not been good financial management and effective internal controls.

Mr Pettifer said he had “continued concerns regarding the governance and oversight of financial management by the board” and ordered the trust to make new governance appointments.

He said an interim chief executive needs to be brought in and the previous business manager and chief operating officer replaced.

The trust has been ordered to provide a recovery plan, which includes efficiency savings and costed implications of reorganisation. It must also provide the agency with monthly management accounts.

The trust has been contacted for comment.

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