Collapsed academy chain WCAT expected to be wound up within weeks

A failed academy chain which ran 21 schools in the Yorkshire region is expected to be formally wound up in a matter of weeks.

WCAT announced it would transfer its academies to other trusts back in 2017.
WCAT announced it would transfer its academies to other trusts back in 2017.

Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which collapsed in September 2017, has relinquished responsibility for all of its academies after transferring the final one over to another trust in November last year.

Trustees anticipate it will remain solvent up to the point it ceases to exist and, according to a Trustees’ Report in WCAT’s latest accounts, published this week, the Department for Education (DfE) would underwrite any closing deficit.

In a statement, the trust said any surplus would be used for the benefit of children but did not provide details on how it would be allocated or on what it would be spent.

A spokesman said: “It is envisaged the trust will be wound up on a solvent basis in the summer, something the trustees have been working towards.

“Any surplus would be used for the benefit of the students under the charitable obligations of the trust.”

The annual report and financial statements, which cover a six-month period, show WCAT held fund balances of around £100,000 as of February 28 this year, taking into account £400,000 of reserves and a pension deficit of nearly £900,000.

From September 1 to that date, assets totalling £43.6m transferred to other trusts as a result of the rebrokering process, which saw Balby Carr and Carr Lodge in Doncaster handed over in September, and the last school, Mexborough Academy, relinquished two months later.

The accounts for WCAT, which has previously been accused of “asset-stripping” its schools, were given a clean audit with no regulatory issues.

The spokesman said: “The accounts have received a fourth successive clean audit since the setting up of a new board in July 2016. We are pleased the transition of the final three academies to new sponsors during the six months covered by the accounts went smoothly, with no disruption to children’s education.

“Provisions have been made within the accounts in respect of staffing and legal costs associated with winding up the Trust’s activities.”

WCAT’s board said its academies would be placed with new sponsors in a shock announcement just days into the school term in September 2017. It said it did not have the capacity to bring about rapid improvements.

In a previous statement, the DfE said it had “learnt” from WCAT and had “significantly increased oversight and scrutiny of academy trusts’ performance”.

The latest financial statements have been prepared six months after the previous year ending accounts, “to assist with the winding up process”, the trust said. It did not give an exact date for its official closure.