Governors and MPs call for action amid fears money swallowed up by failed academy trust is gone forever

Schools had spent many years building up money which was swallowed up by a failed academy trust, governors and MPs have told The Yorkshire Post.

CLASSROOM CUTS: Children at WCAT schools were having to reuse exercise books, it is claimed. Picture posed by models. PIC: Getty

They claim cash which had been set aside to cope with expected budget cuts, pay for equipment and refurbishments and 
support disadvantaged children should be returned to individual schools that were being run by Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT).

But nine months after WCAT announced that it was pulling out of running all of its 21 Yorkshire schools, they still have not received the money.

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Kevin Swift, a Wakefield councillor and chairman of the governing body at Wakefield City Academy, said about £800,000 was transferred from the school to the trust in 2015, on the understanding it was a loan.

But he said he feared the cash was being treated as a “dead and gone” issue following WCAT’s demise.

“The prospect of getting the money back looks bad,” he said, adding that the academy’s 
financial position with its new trust was still being agreed.

He said the academy’s governing board felt the money “rightfully belongs to the school”.

He said: “It would have been very, very useful money in terms of supporting the education of children at City Academy.

“The budgeting that the school did over a period of years was very prudent and was done with the anticipation that various factors affecting funding would mean that we would be moving into leaner times.”

He called for the Department for Education to put a detailed spotlight on what had happened, adding: “It is a really major collapse and it is wrong that the DfE should be able to brush it under the carpet.”

Sally Kincaid, Wakefield’s branch secretary of the National Education Union, said a halt WCAT put on spending, except on “essential items”, ahead of its demise caused a shortage of resources at a time when schools were 
already experiencing hardship due to cuts.

She claimed children were having to write on the back of work done by pupils in previous years and exercise books were being reused, while one school had to wait several weeks for money to be released to tackle a problem with “rats running riot”.

She said: “Teaching assistants were having to buy glue sticks. It was just scandalous.”

The spending freeze meant surplus cash at High Crags in Shipley rose from £178,000, which had been built up prior to the school becoming an academy, to more than £250,000, said Mike Pollard, a Bradford councillor 
and governor at the school who fears they will never see the cash again.

Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said the Government needed to tell parents and teachers how it would stop it happening again.

She said: “The Government needs to come clean and tell us what they knew. If we’re going to learn the 
lessons we need to know the facts.”

Fears over the cash comes after the leader of the academy chain which has taken over six of WCAT’s schools told how he planned to lift the “dark cloud” that had been cast by the collapsed organisation.

Martyn Oliver, chief executive officer of Outwood Grange Academy Trust (OGAT) unveiled ambitious plans to The Yorkshire Post earlier this year as part of his vision to improve educational outcomes and rebuild crumbling buildings.

He also stressed OGAT would not take on any debt and none 
of the schools would start in deficit, with detailed packages in place to ensure the schools’ needs would be met.

Speaking at the time he said: “The WCAT schools are coming across with zero deficit, no surplus and no deficit.”