MP accuses academy chain of taking £276,000 from school

Education stock image. PA
Education stock image. PA
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A TROUBLED chain of academies has been accused by a Tory MP of taking £276,000 from one of its primary schools without consent.

The claim from Philip Davies came as shadow education secretary Angela Rayner suggested ministers were hiding from embarrassment by not publishing a report into Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT).

WCAT said it would give up all of its 21 schools in September, a few days into the new term.

Education minister Nick Gibb said WCAT would not be able to retain any of the reserves it holds at the point of dissolution.

He also rejected Ms Rayner’s assertions around an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) report into WCAT, saying concerns centred on standards rather than funding.

Shipley MP Mr Davies told MPs at education questions: “The minister will be aware that due to the trust, the Wakefield trust, imposing a spending moratorium on High Crags school in my constituency, they built up a surplus, a balance, of £276,000.

“That has in recent days been transferred out of the school account without the authorisation of the school, without the prior consent of the school, and transferred over to the trust.

“Now surely the Government can’t stand aside and allow £276,000 to be taken out of that school’s budget, in one of the most deprived areas of my constituency.

“Will he do something to make sure that money is reinstated back into the school for the benefit of the pupils?”

Mr Gibb said he was right to raise the issue, adding that High Crags had been put into special measures in June 2015, before it became a sponsored academy.

“The school is now being rebrokered to be supported by the highly successful Tauheedul Education Trust,” Mr Gibb said.

“The former trust, WCAT, will not be able to retain any of the reserves it holds at the point of dissolution.

“Schools will be receiving the resources and support they need to raise academic standards, including at High Crags Primary School.”

Ms Rayner then pressed Mr Gibb on the ESFA report, saying: “The minister told me in a written answer last week that he would not publish the ESFA report into the Wakefield City Academies Trust because it would be obstructive to the process of ensuring the schools are placed with new trusts.

“Surely any financial issues are being disclosed to potential new trusts.

“So if so, what on earth is in the report that is so damaging to schools that it can’t be disclosed?

“Or is it just so embarrassing to ministers that they’d rather hide behind excuses?”

Mr Gibb replied: “The issue of the WCAT trust wasn’t about finances, it was about the academic standards in schools in that trust.

“That’s why we’re rebrokering all the schools in the WCAT trust to other, more successful multi-academy trusts in the area.

“Because we are concerned not about making party political points, but by raising academic standards in each of those schools serving pupils in those areas.”

The news comes after union chiefs, staff, parents and pupils from the 21 schools that have been offloaded by a Yorkshire-based academy chain lobbied MPs in Westminster yesterday to highlight a financial crisis after the struggling trust allegedly “drained” funds from school accounts.