Ex-WCAT schools won't get any money back

Schools that were part of the failed Wakefield City Academies Trust won’t get back any of the money that was transferred to the chain before its collapsed, the government has confirmed.

According to the Guardian, Vicky Beer, the regional schools commissioner for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, has written to MPs confirming the trust is in liquidation – adding there is no leftover cash to share with aggrieved schools.

Unfortunately, this does not leave any remaining funds to distribute amongst the previous WCAT academies and their new trusts

She said in her letter to MPs: “I advised previously that any remaining monies would be determined at the point of closure and that there were still costs to be met including pension liabilities and outstanding invoices.

“These costs have now been met and balances cleared. Unfortunately, this does not leave any remaining funds to distribute amongst the previous WCAT academies and their new trusts.”

WCAT announced in September 2017 that it would walk away from its 21 schools after admitting it did not have the capacity to improve them.

The trust was accused of “asset-stripping” following reports it transferred hundreds of thousands of pounds from school budgets in the months before it announced closure.

In June this year, Mary Creagh, the Labour MP for Wakefield, demanded that money handed back to the government by the academy trust be returned to the schools it abandoned.

The recovery process for schools left behind by the failed trust has also not been smooth.

It emerged in late 2017 that the sponsors selected by the government to take the schools on had a variable school improvement record, prompting questions from MPs.

Then, last May, it emerged that Mexborough Academy, one of the two schools without a new sponsor at that time was struggling to find a new home because of a £1 million-a-year private finance initiative contract.

Last November, a DfE review of financial management and governance at the trust found it had broken funding rules 16 times in 2016.

The trust had no formally-appointed accounting officer, chief financial officer, or fully operational audit committee in 2016. The trust was also criticised for planning to award its interim CEO a 12-month contract off-payroll, failing to agree a balanced budget and having no business continuity plan in place.

Schools Week then revealed earlier this year how senior DfE officials were alerted to a string of concerns at the trust before it was handed more than £500,000 in funding to boost school sponsorship in the north of England.

We also reported how Deloitte, one of Big Four accountancy firms, had been paid almost £200,000 to help close the trust. The contract also had a gagging clause to prevent it saying anything that would “embarrass” the DfE.

WCAT was back in the news again in September, after BBC Inside Out revealed allegations that former chief executive Mike Ramsay spent £1,500 on a dog pen for his offices as his trust headed towards financial ruin. It is also alleged that his computer company made more than £840,000 from WCAT’s schools during his tenure.