MPs’ finance fears over trust that offloaded 21 academies
21 schools left in lurch as chain collapses
CONCERNS HAVE been raised over the finances of schools being offloaded by a troubled chain of academies which has declared itself “financially solvent”.
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) made a shock announcement last September that it would cease running 21 Yorkshire schools.
Claims have since been made that WCAT transferred millions of pounds from some of its individual academies into its central accounts.
Yesterday, WCAT published an annual financial report, which said the organisation expects to return a surplus when it is wound up. WCAT said in a statement: “Wakefield City Academies Trust, in the process of transferring its 21 schools to new sponsors, will continue to be financially solvent until the point it is wound-up, its annual accounts reveal.”
Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett previously raised concerns that schools could lose money after savings were reportedly transferred to the parent organisation.
Mr Trickett said yesterday: “At first sight this seems like welcome news and I hope it helps alleviate some of the severe disruption WCAT has caused to education in my constituency and across Yorkshire. Yet I‘m worried that WCAT has achieved solvency off the back of money taken from local schools that should have been earmarked for helping to improve the life chances of children, and much of which was given by parents in voluntary contributions.”
The Department for Education said the accounts showed WCAT had followed “all appropriate processes”.
A RESCUE package to salvage the education of thousands of pupils is set to be finalised as it was announced the last remaining contracts are being signed for schools that were embroiled in the collapse of a troubled academy chain.
The Government has announced that Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) will take over six of the 21 schools that were offloaded by the Wakefield Cities Academies Trust (WCAT).
But two more that were originally earmarked for OGAT will be run by another sponsor following feedback from staff and parents, according to the Department for Education (DfE).
It follows last September’s shock announcement from WCAT, which saw the trust’s board conclude that it could not provide the quality of education its pupils deserved. Last month the DfE announced it had selected seven new trusts to take over 11 of the schools. And today it confirmed that Bell Lane Academy, The Freeston Academy, Havercroft Academy, Heath View Academy, Hemsworth Academy and Wakefield City Academy will join OGAT as planned.
However, Kinsley Academy and West End Academy, which have been supported by OGAT in recent months, are set to be rebrokered to the Waterton Academy Trust, the first purely primary multi-academy trust in Wakefield. It follows feedback from staff and parents who said the chain would be “best suited” to take on the schools.
Martyn Oliver, CEO of OGAT, said: “We have developed very strong and positive relationships with the leadership and staff in these academies and hope that today’s announcement will provide certainty for all.
“The next immediate steps will see us sign a contract with WCAT to run the academies whilst we move to full sponsorship of them in the coming months.”
A further two-week period for views to be submitted will now take place before a final decision is made. Today’s update leaves sponsors for two WCAT schools to be confirmed – Balby Carr Community Academy and Mexborough Academy – with decisions set to be announced in the coming weeks.
A DfE spokesperson said: “We will be working to minimise disruption for pupils and ensure a smooth transfer.”