AN academies trust which runs five schools in Bradford was conned out of more than £77,000 after being the victim of a cyber attack last year.

Star Academies Trust revealed in its end of year accounts that on June 29 last year, staff at the trust transferred more than £77,000 to a fraudulent email account pretending to be one of the Trust’s suppliers.

Star Academies managed to recoup around £38,000 of the money when staff released it was a scam, but the blunder still left the Trust short of almost £40,000.

However due to the sophistication of the attack, the Trust’s insurance company did refund the Trust with the total amount of lost funds.

Star Academies Trust runs three primary schools - Barkerend, High Crags and Thornbury Primary Leadership Academies - and two secondary schools, Tong Leadership Academy and Laisterdyke Leadership Academy. A sixth school, Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy, is also set to open this September.

It was formerly known as the Tauheedul Education Trust, but rebranded to Star Academies in July last year.

In the Trust’s accounts, a statement from chief executive Hamid Patel CBE said: “On June 29, 2018, the Trust suffered a sophisticated cyber attack, targeting a supplier’s and the Trust’s email systems.

“As a result of an exchange of fraudulent emails purporting to represent the supplier and Trust employees, a supplier payment of £77,370 was paid into a fraudulent bank account.

“On identification of the issue the prompt action of the Trust’s senior management team and trustees meant that the remaining funds within the fraudulent bank account were frozen, and £38,153.18 was recovered from the bank.

“The Trust’s anti-fraud policy was instigated and all relevant parties, including the Education and Skills Funding Agency were notified.

“The Trust’s external auditors were instructed to undertake a thorough review of the events leading to the cyber attack, the internal IT department completed a full audit of the IT systems to identify the breach and ensure the Trust’s systems are strengthened to help prevent a similar attack in the future.

“Following a thorough investigation, the Trust’s insurers were satisfied the breach was sophisticated and there was little action the Trust could have taken to identify the fraud prior to it occurring, and therefore the insurer agrees to compensate the Trust for the balance of the unrecovered funds.”

The Trust’s accounts showed it has total funds of £248 million for the year ending August 31, 2018, an increase of more than £67 million on the previous year.

Star Academies Trust opened its first free school in September 2012, and has grown since to include 24 schools in Bradford, Lancashire, the West Midlands and London.

Its name promotes the core values of the Trust; Service, Teamwork, Ambition and Respect.

Earlier this week two of its primary schools in Bradford, Barkerend and Thornbury Primary Leadership Academies, both placed in the top one per cent in England for maths, and top three per cent for reading, in the recent Primary School Performance Tables compiled following last summer’s SATs exams.