A GOVERNMENT investigation will “remain an important record” despite an academy trust no longer existing.

The investigation, which was carried out by the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency, concluded the trust needed to take urgent action.

The report into the Thrive Partnershp Academy Trust said: “A number of significant findings and breaches of the Academies Financial Handbook have been identified.

“These include poor oversight, poor procurement practices, questionable recruitment and severance processes and instances of irregular expenditure.”

But it said the decision of the trust to start the closure process and transfer schools to the Sigma Trust meant the recommendations had been “superseded”.


A note accompanying the report said: “The recommendations remain an important record of the investigation’s findings regardless of what decisions were made in response to them.”

An independent investigation was commissioned by the trust, but the outcome of any such enquiry was never revealed.

Both Philip Morant and the Colne School were involved in the trust before it dissolved.

Former headteacher Howard Freed, who worked at the dissolved academy trust, has questioned the “unfounded” suspension of Catherine Hutley, who is now an assistant director of education at Essex County Council.

Responding to the government report he said it further proved Ms Hutley is “owed an apology” by the former board of trustees.

He added it was the CEO, the business and finance directors who had responsibility for finance.

“From my experience they were the senior posts and the responsibility lies with them,” he said.

“The trust found no foundation for Catherine Hutley’s suspension so far as no action was taken, in fact that was a vindication.

“She ultimately resigned and no disciplinary action followed.

“It may be water under the bridge now, but if anything she is owed an apology by the trust.

“I regret the way it all ended with Thrive, in particular for Catherine Hutley.

“I think the school and the trust lost an outstanding headteacher.

“What was the suspension really about?

“We may never know, as no action was taken against her.”

Mr Freed said he found it “surprising” to read in the report that the chair of trustees had been unaware of a loan application for £1.4 million until almost five months after its submission.

“From my experience of working with a number of schools governing boards and trustees, I would be very surprised if the trust’s board was not aware of this,” he said. “The trustees said to the agency they were not aware, and that does surprise me.”