'˜We're still in the dark over WCAT collapse'

Secrecy and silence still surrounds the closure of a beleaguered academy chain, six months after a shock announcement that it would cease running its 21 Yorkshire schools.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 6th March 2018, 4:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th March 2018, 4:40 pm
Hemsworth Arts & Community Academy
Hemsworth Arts & Community Academy

On Monday, the chair of the childre and young people scrutiny committee at Wakefield Council said members had been unable to get answers about the demise of Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT).

Coun Margaret Isherwood said the group had tried to meet with Vicky Beer, the Regional Schools Commissioner for West Yorkshire and Lancashire, who oversees decisions about academies in the region. The meeting was told that no response was received, other than an automated reply. A complaint has since been lodged with the Department for Education (DfE).

Coun Isherwood said: “No one could see what was going on with WCAT. It’s the secrecy that concerns people around this table.”

Speaking after the meeting, she added: “We are frustrated that we can’t get any answers.

“We are there as a scrutiny body and are supposed to be able to scrutinise things that relate to children and young people in Wakefield, including the education system.

“So, it’s frustrating that we don’t seem to be able to get a response, so that we can do our jobs properly and find out what is going on.”

Just days into the new school term last September, WCAT’s board said the trust would cease running its schools, concluding that it could not provide the quality of education its pupils deserved.

Claims have since been made that WCAT transferred millions of pounds from some of its individual academies into its central accounts. And in December, police confirmed they were looking into information received about WCAT following calls for an investigation from Wakefield Council.

Earlier this year, WCAT published an annual financial report, which said the organisation expects to return a surplus when it is wound up.

It 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.”

In January, the DfE announced it had selected seven new trusts to take over 11 of the schools offloaded by WCAT.

The Government later said that Outwood Grange Academies Trust would take over six Wakefield schools - Bell Lane Academy, The Freeston Academy, Havercroft Academy, Heath View Academy, Hemsworth Academy and Wakefield City Academy. Two more - Kinsley Academy and West End Academy - are set to be re-brokered to Waterton Academy Trust.