Wakefield trust walkout leaves special measures school in six-year limbo

Wakefield trust walkout leaves special measures school in six-year limbo

A second trust given a slice of £5 million northern academy hub funding has walked away from a school in special measures – meaning it has now been in limbo waiting for a permanent sponsor for six years.

The Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) will no longer sponsor Hanson academy, in Bradford, after it finishes a 12-month “try before you buy” period in which it provided support to the school.

WCAT, which was handed some of £5 million government funding given to five trusts to take over failing schools and drive up standards in the north, has refused to explain why it is now walking away from Hanson.

It is the second of the northern trusts to pull out from schools in the region.

Schools Week revealed last month that Bright Tribe withdrew from sponsoring a federation in Cumbria. However, it said these schools did not fall under the extra funding remit.

Children aren’t cans of beans that can be left on the shelf.

WCAT’s rejection follows a similar move by School Partnership Trust Academies, now renamed Delta Academies Trust, which pulled out of a promise to sponsor Hanson in 2015.

This latest drop-out raises serious questions over how the government can ensure schools deemed too toxic for an academy takeover will get improvement support.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “This shows the dangers of leaving education to the market – it’s a rational market response because it jeopardises your brand.

“But children aren’t cans of beans that can be left on the shelf. There doesn’t seem to be a coherent strategy to ensure ministers can ensure these schools get the support they need and that they aren’t left floundering.”

Hanson first planned to convert to an academy after being put in special measures in 2011. It was rated as “requires improvement” in 2013, but put back into special measures in 2015.

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan once famously said “a day spent in a failing school is a day too long when their education is at stake”. But the year 7 Hanson intake in 2011-12, the first time it was rated inadequate, left the school last year without ever seeing a permanent sponsor.

WCAT has refused to comment on its reasons for not staying with Hanson. It will also walk away from University Academy Keighley, also in Bradford.

The organisation would not confirm whether the abandoned schools were covered by the northern academy hub deal. A spokesperson said the trust had converted three primaries in Bradford.

Morgan said the northern hub funding was for “top performing” academy sponsors to “improve performance for pupils in the most challenging areas”.

Imran Khan, Bradford council’s executive member for education, employment and skills, said the decision was not a reflection on the schools, but a result of the trust’s “organisational structure”.

Dr John Hargreaves, WCAT chairman, said the trust’s focus was on improving standards in its current 21 academies, and pledged to work with the government to limit disruption during the “transition”.

The education department is yet to publish the findings of financial and governance investigation into the trust.