Teachers call for Bright Tribe to relinquish control of Copeland school

Teachers are demanding that the Bright Trust academy chain relinquishes control of Whitehaven academy due to concerns over financial mismanagement.

The concerns follow an investigation by the Observer, which led to heavy criticism from regulators. All 70 staff of Whitehaven academy in Copeland, Cumbria have signed an open letter to political leaders in the area warning that they are ‘unable to improve the school if it remains with the trust’.

The letter criticises the trust for taking too much of the school’s central government funding, as well as giving contracts to Blue Support Services - a firm owned by the leader of the trust, Mike Dwan.

The letter reads: “This conflict of interest, in our views, means that the academy has been unable to tender for works completed to ensure the most cost-effective deal, so any reference to any amount spent to improve the school is totally irrelevant.

“We would suggest that significant improvements could be made to the condition of the building if the trust did not levy a nine per cent top slice on us. The trust takes nine per cent of all the academy’s income, which is more than most other trusts, who take between three and six per cent.

“Just think what improvements could be made with this money. The trust states that £400,000 has been spent improving the school. It fails to mention the significant amount that it takes out.”

Mike Starkie, the independent mayor of Copeland, has supported the teachers calls for Bright Tribe to pull out of the school and said it should be handed over to another trust.

However, a spokesman for Bright Tribe has told the Observer that the academy is ‘in compliance with the Academies Financial Handbook’.

The spokesperson added: “The condition of the buildings is not in dispute but we inherited at least a decade of decline and mismanagement. This is not Bright Tribe’s fault and it is something we will continue to try to do something about.”

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