The Wakefield City Academies Trust has appointed a new chief executive to deliver a “renewed focus on teaching and learning” after a turbulent few months for the chain.
Chris Pickering has been appointed chief executive of the 21-school trust, based in Yorkshire. He leaves his role as chief executive of the Diverse Academies Trust, based in the east Midlands.
Pickering takes over on a fixed-term contract from Mike Ramsay, who had stepped down as chair of the trust to fulfil the role as interim in March last year.
The government later conducted a finance and governance review into the trust, with concerns over Ramsay’s pay and forecast budget deficits two of the issues highlighted.
A final report has not been published. But annual accounts revealed the trust had breached rules over payments to an IT firm run by Ramsay, Hi Tech Group Limited, rose from £140,605 in 2015, to £295,926 in 2016.
As well as interim chief executive services, last year’s pay included payments for advisory services, and IT and software development.
Auditors stated some of those services were not provided “at cost” and did not follow appropriate procedures as they were approved by a member of staff who reported directly to Ramsay.
The trust has since stated it has tightened procedures.
WCAT also walked away from sponsoring two schools in Bradford – despite being given £500,000 extra funding under the government’s northern fund to takeover the schools.
But Dr John Hargreaves, WCAT chair, the trust, under Ramsay, has undergone a “transformation” in how it operates and is now in a “much sounder position”.
He added: “The board felt the time was right to appoint somebody with considerable experience in education to oversee the final push into this summer’s exams and focus our teaching and learning efforts in the new academic year.”
Ramsay’s chief executive contract had run until August 31. However he has stepped down with immediate effect, although he will still hold chair of governors positions at schools within the trust for the meantime.
Ramsay said he was proud of trust staff who had “embraced change and the challenges that we faced together to position the trust in a different and more positive place”.
He said the trust had re-established “firm foundations, ethos and vision to build on”, adding Pickering will now “steer the trust through our next chapter of development”.