‘Time for the truth about WCAT’

MP Jon Trickett.
MP Jon Trickett.

Fresh calls have been made for an investigation into the running and financing of an academy chain.

There are now fears the cash given to Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) which had been built up for equipment and resources was “dead and gone”.

Some of the money had been raised through fairs and fundraising and was earmarked to support disadvantaged children to purchase uniforms and go on school trips.

WCAT announced days into the new school term last September that it was pulling out of running all of its 21 Yorkshire schools after the trust’s board said it could not provide the quality of education its pupils deserved.

Claims have since been made that money from its schools, including at least £1.5m among those in Wakefield, was channelled into the trust’s central finances.

The Express has learnt the schools are still to receive confirmation over what money they will get back, prompting new demands for a public investigation into what went wrong with WCAT and into accountability within the whole academy system.

Hemsworth Academy had £200,000 which had been raised through fairs and fundraising, and £216,000 from a capital fund for future building work, transferred to the trust.

Similarly £300,000 from Heath View school in Wakefield, which is now Park Hill, had been earmarked for school improvements.

Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth, where four primary schools and one secondary were run by WCAT, said: “There’s a lot of unanswered questions and it is time that the full truth came out about what happened.”

A Department for Education spokesman said new trusts had been confirmed for 20 of the 21 WCAT schools. “Once all the schools have been transferred, WCAT will focus on the orderly wind-up of the trust, with oversight from the Education and Skills Funding Agency and the Department,” he added.

The department has previously said WCAT was taking a “trust-wide” perspective of its finances. It looked at allegations of assets being moved “inappropriately” from WCAT schools but had found “no evidence of this”.

A police investigation also found that no crimes were committed when the trust suddenly stopped running the 21 schools. Accounts published at the start of the year show it is expected WCAT will return a surplus when it is wound up and the Government has said it will work with the schools’ new trusts to redistribute any cash left over.