ETA context for non-UKians: an academy trust is a company that at the Government’s invitation takes over the running of one or more state schools from local education authorities, thus bringing the discipline and dynamism of private enterprise to the inefficient and backward-looking public sector. There is absolutely no way this can go wrong.
Some highlights from the article:
Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy, a mixed secondary school in Pontefract, had £220,000 of funds, raised by volunteers at Christmas markets and other school events, transferred to the trust’s accounts earlier this year.
Heath View primary school in Wakefield had £300,000 transferred to the trust in September 2016. Another school, Wakefield City Academy, had more than £800,000 transferred towards the end of 2015. In both cases the trust told the schools’ governors that the transfer was a loan. Wakefield City Academy even received a number of small repayments. However, since the trust’s collapse both schools have been told that it no longer acknowledges the transactions as loans.
Parents, teachers and governors say the financial problems at the Wakefield City Academies Trust had been clear for nearly a year before it collapsed. In November 2016 a draft DfE report leaked to the Times Education Supplement stated that the trust was in an “extremely vulnerable position as a result of inadequate governance, leadership and overall financial management”.
The draft raised concerns that the chief executive, Mike Ramsay, had been paid more than £82,000 for 15 weeks’ work, despite the fact that the trust was facing a large budget deficit. The DfE has so far refused freedom of information requests to see the final report.
The previous month, it had emerged that the trust had paid almost £440,000 to IT and clerking companies owned by Ramsay and his daughter. In a statement at the time, the trust said internal vetting procedures had found that the contracts represented the best value.
Although serious questions have been raised about financial managment, there is no suggestion of fraudulent activity.