THE trust which runs academies including UCAN and UPAW is set to make redundancies after posting a forecast deficit exceeding £3 million.

The University of Chester Academies Trust (UCAT) has been served a 'financial notice to improve' by the government's Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), and reports suggest it could shed 19 teachers and 24 support staff as part of a restructuring process.

Some schools could also be taken over by new sponsors.

The letter handing down the notice reveals that the trust has been under financial monitoring since 2017, but concerns remain over its 'weak financial position'.

Mike Pettifer, ESFA director for academies, wrote to UCAT chairman Tim Boulton: "As you are aware, the trust has submitted a deficit in its latest financial forecast exceeding £3m.

"It is a requirement of the trust’s funding agreement that a balanced budget must be returned."

Mr Pettifer continued: "As you are aware, the ESFA has been monitoring the Trust since 2017 to develop a robust and sustainable recovery plan.

"I recognise the cooperation and extensive discussions that have taken place between the Trust and officials. However, my concerns remain in relation to the weak financial position and financial management at the Trust.

"This letter and its annex serve as a formal notice to improve financial management, control and governance at the Trust.

"It reflects the financial position of the Trust and continued concerns on governance and oversight of financial management by the board of trustees."

Progress against the requirements of submitting a balanced budget will continue to be monitored by the ESFA.

A UCAT spokesman said: "In common with a number of other multi academy trusts, UCAT has received a financial notice to improve from the ESFA. 

"It has been working very closely with the ESFA for a number of months to address financial pressures and is working towards financial health.

"Due to the current numbers of pupils, staffing structures for both teaching and support staff are being reviewed across all schools within the Trust.

"Consultations are about to begin for affected schools.

"At present, initial indications are that the following numbers of staff could be affected. All figures are full time equivalent.

"University Primary Academy Weaverham (UPAW) 0 teachers, 1.46 support staff.

"University Church Free School (UCFS) 0, 2.

"University Primary Academy Kidsgrove (UPAK) 0, 1.

"University Academy Kidsgrove (UAK) 6, 9.16.

"University Academy Warrington (UAW) 1, 4.74.

"University of Chester Academy Northwich (UCAN) 2.39, 0.

"University Church of England Academy (UCEA) 9.63, 5.8.

"The Trust continues to have ongoing discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) and is looking at all options, including the possibility of finding new sponsors for some schools.

"UCAT is committed to providing the best educational experience it can for its pupils.

"It will support all its staff during this challenging time and is working very closely with trade unions and the DfE throughout this process."