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Parents 'have to travel miles' to take part in WCAT consultation

Government pressed on refusal to published official report on Wakefield City Academies Trust

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Government pressed on refusal to published official report on Wakefield City Academies Trust

Parents are having to travel miles and book tickets online to take part in a consultation about the future of a school sponsored by a failed academy trust, MPs have heard.

A series of members raised questions about the collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) during education questions in the House of Commons this afternoon.

The government has announced which academy trusts it wants to take over each of the 21 schools, but said there was “an opportunity for interested parties to submit views” before final decisions were made.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper raised the concerns of parents at Freeston School in Normanton, which is due to be taken over by Outwood Grange.

She said: “The parents were promised that there would be some consultation on the future of the school, because they worried about the future of Send (special educational needs and disability), about whether or not the school is going to lose its name, its identity, or its uniform.

“Instead, all that they have been offered is that they have got to travel miles to another school in another town only for a meeting where they have to book tickets online or can’t go.”

She asked whether the minister agreed this was “not proper consultation of parents”.

Schools minister Nick Gibb did not directly answer the question, but said the government was “not happy with the performance of the multi-academy trust”, and that it re-brokers schools that are failing, or turns them into academies.

WCAT transfers

Conservative MP Philip Davies repeated concerns about WCAT transferring money out of its schools.

He said: "The minister will be aware that due to the trust, the Wakefield trust, imposing a spending moratorium on High Crags school in my constituency, they built up a surplus, a balance, of £276,000.

"That has in recent days been transferred out of the school account without the authorisation of the school, without the prior consent of the school, and transferred over to the trust.

"Now surely the Government can't stand aside and allow £276,000 to be taken out of that school's budget, in one of the most deprived areas of my constituency.

"Will he do something to make sure that money is reinstated back into the school for the benefit of the pupils?"

Mr Gibb reiterated that WCAT would not be able to retain any of the reserves it holds at the point of dissolution.

Report issues

The minister was also pressed on the DfE’s refusal to publish a report about WCAT by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Angela Rayner, shadow education minister, said that she was told the agency's report was not being published because it would be "obstructive" to the process of ensuring the schools are placed with new trusts.

"Surely any financial issues are being disclosed to potential new trusts," she continued."So if so, what on earth is in the report that is so damaging to schools that it can't be disclosed?

"Or is it just so embarrassing to ministers that they'd rather hide behind excuses?"

Mr Gibb replied: "The issue of the WCAT trust wasn't about finances, it was about the academic standards in schools in that trust.”

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