A gathering of over 30 individuals, including parents, former educators, school governors, and a Member of Parliament, convened at Southlands Methodist Church on November 30 to discuss mounting concerns about the management of York’s South Bank Multi Academy Trust (MAT).
During the meeting, initiated by Micklegate councillors, participants heard poignant firsthand accounts described by Councillor Pete Kilbane as “emotionally charged reports detailing the struggles faced by our most vulnerable students and families under the care of South Bank MAT. Teachers also expressed fears about openly addressing their concerns.”
A parent conveyed a sense of being a “participant in a battle for their children” during the discussion.
The assembly was prompted by the collective resignation of the entire governing body of Scarcroft Primary School in September. Outgoing governors cited an “irreparable breakdown in trust and communication” with the academy trust, raising serious questions about the effectiveness of South Bank MAT.
Despite being invited, representatives from the academy trust chose not to attend. The trust contended that the meeting’s publicity, including a letter from Micklegate councillors to the York Press, had caused “considerable distress to colleagues in our Trust, including the propagation of unfounded allegations regarding their suitability for senior roles.”
Expressing deep concern, the trust stated that the meeting, held under such circumstances, would only cause further distress and harm individual reputations. A spokesperson for the trust added in a statement that they would “not be adding more layers of governance by engaging with public meetings, campaign groups, or third parties.”
Prominent figures attending the meeting included a Member of Parliament, a former Scarcroft governor, and a City of York Council executive member for children, young people, and education.
Speaking post-meeting, the council executive member expressed an intention to confidentially relay the community’s sentiments to the relevant schools, hoping they would be taken seriously by school leaders.
Another Micklegate councillor underscored the year-long endeavor to resolve issues, stating, “Parents are eager for positive change that bolsters their children’s education, and we will persist in doing all we can to assist them in securing that change.”
The Member of Parliament, who recently voiced concerns in Parliament about the academy trust’s accountability, emphasized that while teachers and support staff are doing their best, there must be greater accountability of the MAT leadership when valid concerns arise from parents and children.
In response to the mounting concerns, the academy trust defended its governance arrangements, stating they are in line with the requirements of the Department for Education (DfE) and their articles of association. The trust reiterated its stance on not adding more layers of governance by engaging with public meetings, campaign groups, or third parties.
The trust also underscored that local authorities and local councillors have no involvement, authority, or remit in the organization and operation of Multi Academy Trusts. However, it encouraged parents with specific concerns to raise them through the proper channels, directly with their child’s school.
As the community continues to voice its concerns, the South Bank Multi Academy Trust finds itself at the center of a growing debate over accountability, transparency, and the quality of education provided to the students it serves. The call for positive change resonates strongly, and the outcomes of this community-driven movement will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of the academy trust.