A TEACHING union has slammed York’s South Bank Multi Academy Trust - which has been embroiled in a row with some parents and former school governors about the way it operates - as ‘unaccountable and unreachable’.

In a letter to The Press published ahead of a public meeting tomorrow called by local councillors to discuss ‘continued concerns’ about the Trust, Mike Kearney, the York district secretary of teaching union the NEU, claims there has been a ‘complete breakdown in trust’ between the academy chain and the school communities it serves.

But in a robust response today, a spokesperson for the academy chain said Mr Kearney’s ‘attempt to discredit the Trust appears to be based on a lack of knowledge about how Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) operate.’

Tomorrow’s meeting at Southlands Methodist Church at 7pm follows the mass resignation earlier this year of the entire governing body of Scarcroft Primary School – which is a member of the Trust - in a row over changes to terms and conditions for teaching assistants at the academy chain’s six schools.

The meeting, which will be attended by York’s Labour education chief Cllr Bob Webb, has been called by Micklegate's three Labour ward councillors, Pete Kilbane, Jane Burton and Jonny Crawshaw. Cllr Crawshaw was himself one of the former Scarcroft School governors who resigned.


Public meeting to discuss 'continued concerns' over York schools academy trust

York's South Bank academy trust 'unaccountable and unreachable'

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In his letter to The Press today, education union the NEU’s York district secretary Mr Kearney says academy chains are ‘essentially private businesses where accountability to the staff and public has been severely eroded’.

He continues: “The issue was most illuminated throughout the past year at South Bank MAT starting with the wholly unnecessary and brutal decision to slash the pay of some school support staff.

“Following this, the attempts to hold the MAT trustees to account and challenge their decisions has led to a complete breakdown in trust between them and the school communities.”

Local trades unions had asked to speak to members of the academy chain’s board of trustees. “But they refused to speak to us or the staff,” Mr Kearney says in his letter.

Attempts to ask questions about the recruitment of senior staff led to a further example of ‘accountability breakdown’, Mr Kearney says.

“There are genuine and pressing questions that parents, staff and unions need answers to, but they again revert back to silence,” he writes in his letter.

But in its response today, a spokesperson for the MAT insisted Mr Kearney’s criticisms were based on a ‘lack of knowledge about how Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) operate’.

All MATs were subjected to scrutiny from Ofsted, the DfE, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the Trust board and the governing bodies within our schools, the spokesperson said.

“All genuine, specific and appropriate enquiries are dealt with in the correct, professional manner either by our individual schools or our Central Team and we have provided responses and information to all parties who have raised queries.

“We refute Mr Kearney's claim that there has been a complete breakdown in trust between SBMAT and the school communities; this is absolutely not the case.

“The Trust is always willing to listen to, and engage with all its stakeholders, including parents and the wider community, however they need to understand that there may be matters on which we will not agree.”