MPs’ fi­nance fears over trust that off­loaded 21 acad­e­mies

21 schools left in lurch as chain col­lapses

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - DON MORT AND NINA SWIFT ■ Email:­ ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

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.”

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