Meeting with the Minister for the School System, Imran has demanded the Department for Education return money that was stripped from two Bradford schools by the Wakefield City Academy Trust (WCAT) before the trust’s collapse in September 2017.
The Wakefield City Academy Trust (WCAT) which ran Barkerend Academy and Thornbury Academy in Imran’s constituency of Bradford East from June 2016 collapsed in September 2017, just days into the new academic year, forcing the Department of Education to urgently seek a new academy trust to run the schools.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency inspected the Trust in 2015, returning in 2016 to conduct a follow-up inspection where they reportedly found serious failings that were backed up by poor exam results in August 2016. However, despite these concerns, the Trust was allowed to continue running Barkerend and Thornbury Academies, a decision that Imran has branded ‘unacceptable’ and a huge failing of the Department of Education’s contingency planning.
Prior to the collapse of the Trust, WCAT also stripped up to £300,000 from the two schools, including money that was set aside as a ‘rainy day fund’ by Thornbury Academy to pay for maintenance of the school amongst other projects, transferring it into a central WCAT pot. Yet following the collapse of the Trust, the two schools have yet to see a full return of the money.
In his meeting with the Minister, Imran raised his concerns around the asset stripping of the Bradford schools by WCAT, stating that it was money set aside by the schools prior to their transfer to the Trust and so rightly belonged to the schools, and demanded that the Department for Education work to refund the schools so that they are not left financially poorer as a result of WCAT’s collapse which was beyond their control.
He also raised the two inspections of WCAT by the Education and Skills Funding Agency before the Trust’s collapse, stating that the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Department for Education should have identified concerns around the Trust sooner and stepped in before the collapse, and urged the Minister to publish the inspection reports in the spirit of transparency so that the Trust and the Department for Education can be held accountable.
Speaking on his meeting with Lord Agnew, Minister for the School System, Imran said:
“We are now approaching the end of the academic year, yet neither Barkerend nor Thornbury Academy has seen a full return of money that was stripped from them by the collapsing Trust, and I have demanded that the Minister accept that this was not the Trust’s money and so must be returned to the schools as soon as possible.
“Whilst the return of funding that was stripped from the schools is key to resolving this situation, we also need to see a thorough review of the Department for Education’s unacceptable decision to allow WCAT to continue running schools in Bradford that it had just taken over after poor exam results and inspections, of why there were no contingency plans to allow them to take the schools back, and of why concerns weren’t raised sooner.
“There have long been serious worries about the lack of accountability of academies, with responsibility for all academies falling on the Secretary of State for Education through the Regional Schools Commissioners rather than the local authority, and it is clear to see through the collapse of WCAT that these worries are well-founded.”