Inquiry urged into schools funding allegation

Education stock image. PA
Education stock image. PA
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An East Riding councillor has written to education chiefs at the authority calling for an investigation into whether a Yorkshire schools chain took money from Goole Academy’s reserves prior to its collapse.

It comes amid a growing number of allegations that Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) had “asset-stripped its schools” after it transferred millions of pounds of the schools’ savings to its own accounts before collapsing.

In an email to Kevin Hall, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s director of schools, and Coun Julie Abraham, cabinet member for education, Coun Keith Moore raised concerns over the “potential fraud”.

He wrote: “Can we please therefore investigate whether Goole High School (its former name) loaned money from its reserves or had such monies unilaterally transferred into the WCAT accounts prior to the collapse of the trust.”

Coun Moore, who represents Labour in Goole North, described the situation as “a dog’s breakfast”.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “The whole thing is shrouded in a veil of secrecy, which makes me suspicious.

“I tabled a question for the leader of the council, asking for all failing academies to be taken back into local authority control and I was hit with a negative. So I tabled a supplementary question asking members to join with the Labour group to request an investigation into what has happened at WCAT, in particular what has caused the collapse. The trust is being tight-lipped about this.

“They are being accused of ‘asset-stripping’ millions of pounds from schools, so I have called for an investigation into what implications there are for Goole High School.”

Coun Moore, a former governor at the school, said it was academised under one of the previous headteachers six years ago and within “a very short time” it was placed into special measures.

Earlier this month, the Department for Education (DfE) named its preferred new sponsors for the schools abandoned by WCAT. Four, including Goole Academy, will become part of the Delta Academies Trust, formerly known as SPTA, which was stripped of three of its schools in late 2015 following concerns about low standards.

Coun Moore said: “That also worries me.”

Yesterday, The Yorkshire Post revealed union chiefs, staff, parents and pupils from the 21 schools that have been offloaded by WCAT lobbied MPs in Westminster to highlight a financial crisis after the struggling trust allegedly “drained” funds from school accounts.

A DfE spokesperson said: “A failing academy trust must never profit from the re-brokerage of its schools.

“We are working with the preferred trusts and schools to ensure they have the right support and resources they need to improve the outcomes for pupils as quickly as possible, which will include the necessary pupil funding.”