Wakefield school firm boss steps down after payments controversy

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The temporary boss of a chain of schools who was paid £127,000 for five months’ work via his private company has stepped down.

In January, it was revealed the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) paid the equivalent of over £25,000 a month for the services of Mike Ramsay as interim chief executive between March and August last year.

The cash was paid to Hi Tech Group Ltd, a company controlled by Mr Ramsay. The firm was also paid to provide IT services to the trust, which runs 21 schools.

WCAT said Ramsay’s pay was in line with market rates and proper tender processes were followed when awarding contracts.

But the trust announced Mr Ramsey had stepped down and a new CEO had taken over “with immediate effect”.

Chris Pickering, previously CEO at Diverse Academies Trust in the East Midlands, has been tasked with improving teaching and learning across the group.

WCAT chair Dr John Hargreaves said: “While progress has been made in many of our academies, the WCAT board recognises there needs to be a renewed focus on teaching and learning, which will benefit children across the trust.

“We would like to thank Mike for his considerable input into WCAT. He took over as interim CEO in March 2016, at a difficult and challenging time.”

Mr Ramsey added: “My role was to manage, drive and support transition to a point where we could secure a CEO to take the helm and steer the trust through our next chapter of our development.

“The decision to bring the new CEO on board has my full support. To allow full integration I have decided to step down. I wish the new CEO all the best.”

Last October, WCAT defended making payments to companies linked to Mr Ramsay after details first emerged.

Sally Kincaid, National Union of Teachers (NUT) Wakefield branch secretary, said: “The NUT always had concerns that the academy programme would lead to less accountability and local democratic control over schools.

“We hope this appointment leads to more support for the schools in the trust.”