WCAT board members blamed DfE for problems

16th November 2017 at 17:31
Newly published papers show 'heated debate' over DfE responsibilities as WCAT discussed giving up academies

Board members at Wakefield City Academies Trust blamed the Department for Education for their trust's problems when it was on the brink of collapse, new minutes reveal. 

In September the controversial academy trust announced that it was giving up all 21 of its schools after concluding it was unable to rapidly improve them.

Prompted by a freedom of information request, WCAT has now published minutes from two "extraordinary board meetings" that took place in June, during which the trust discussed whether it would have to give up some or all of its academies.

'Letting students down'

In the first extraordinary meeting, which took place on 15 June, Chris Pickering, the trust's interim chief executive, informed the board that "most of the WCAT academies were letting students down".

However, the minutes state that board members then "stressed to [Mr Pickering] that the DfE must take ownership of blame in contributing to the historical problems that had brought about the current position of the trust".  

Later on in the meeting, Mr Pickering said there "was a perceived inadequacy of the board" and that "the trust had failed to provide adequate education over successive boards".

But a board member responded at this point, saying that "improvements had been made under the current board" and said the DfE had "failed to accept working arrangements and responsibilities". 

'A difficult position'

The minutes go on to add: "The board engaged in a confidential heated debate regarding working relationships with the [interim CEO], WCAT and the DfE, questioning contractual duties, responsibilities and reporting priorities."

The second extraordinary meeting took place on 27 June, during which the board discussed the possible dissolution of the trust. The minutes from this meeting show that at one point, "a member reflected on previous behaviours displayed by the DfE and regional school commissioner".

"Noting that the trust had been placed in a difficult position, a discussion followed on business operations should administrators be appointed to close the trust," the minutes add.

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