Scandal-hit Wakefield City Academies Trust is wound up

Liquidator is appointed to close down troubled academy chain

John Roberts

Wakefield City Academies Trust is closing down for good

A controversial multi-academy trust is finally being wound up after a turbulent period in which it gave up all of its 21 schools amid concerns about standards and its use of public money.

Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) has started the formal process of winding up, with a voluntary liquidator appointed to help the trust to close.

The imminent closure of the trust marks the end of a troubled three years, in which WCAT went from being one of the government’s most trusted sponsors – and being given extra funding to raise standards in the North – to being mired in scandal.

Controversy: MAT chief executive's firm 'made £840,000' 

Quick read: Doomed WCAT chain finished year with £2m

Insight: DfE told scandal-hit WCAT to pool cash from its schools

WCAT announced two years ago that it was giving up its schools after concluding it was unable to rapidly improve them.

Only four of WCAT’s schools at the time were judged "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted.

Last year the Department for Education published two reviews of financial management and governance at WCAT,  which it carried out in 2015 and 2016.

The reviews confirmed that the DfE was concerned about a “serious breakdown in the management, governance and oversight by the board of trustees at WCAT since the beginning of 2016”.

The DfE said that WCAT was asked to take action on a range of issues, including related-party transactions; consultancy costs; and improper use of public funds relating to gifts and hospitality policy.

There has also been controversy over claims that a firm owned by WCAT's former chief executive Mike Ramsay made just over £840,000 during his time with the trust.

The figure was reported by the BBC’s Inside Out programme last month.

It also reported that Mr Ramsay would claim 82p-a-mile mileage expenses as well as being paid £145 an hour for what he claimed were 16- or 17-hour days.

But Mr Ramsay categorically denied allegations made against him in the recent BBC documentary.

In 2016, WCAT accounts revealed that WCAT had paid £316,489 to an IT firm belonging to Mr Ramsay.

It also showed that the trust awarded a two-year contract worth £123,012 to a company owned by his daughter for clerking work. At the time, WCAT said that the spending was done through a competitive tendering process.

WCAT has also been criticised over the way it transferred surplus money from its schools into the central trust accounts.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said last week she was told by the DfE that, after the closure of WCAT, there would be no funds left to distribute back to the schools that were formerly part of the trust.

WCAT was accused of asset stripping its schools with Wakefield Council referring the matter to West Yorkshire Police. A subsequent investigation found no crimes had been committed.

The governance reviews published by the DfE reveal that WCAT was actually advised to pool its resources by the DfE.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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