Two years ago, Wakefield City Academy Trust (WCAT) was named as one of five ‘outstanding’ academy trusts to receive a share of £10m funding to set up ‘high-performing academy hubs in areas having some of the greatest need’.
WCAT had been only one multi-academy chain (MAT) to be given a clean bill of health by Ofsted following focussed inspections in early 2015. But two WCAT academies were judged Inadequate in January 2017.
Also in January came news that WCAT was walking away from its proposed sponsorship of Hanson School, Wakefield, which had been stuck in academy conversion limbo for six years.
In May 2017, Schools Week reported that the Department for Education (DfE) was refusing to release a report following a financial management and governance review of WCAT. Documents seen by Schools Week showed the review expressed concern about ‘related-party transactions, projected deficits and concerns over the removal of trustees’.
Yesterday, Schools Week reported that WCAT is to give up its 21 academies. WCAT admitted ‘the Trust does not have the capacity to facilitate the rapid improvement our academies need and our students deserve’.
WCAT, remember, was described as ‘outstanding’ in November 2015 and given taxpayers’ money to take on new schools.
Some of WCAT’s academies – Willow Academy, Create Studio, Goole High School and Yewlands Technology College for example – were already academies when WCAT took them over. Parents and pupils will now be faced with yet another change following initial conversion, takeover by WCAT and now a takeover by as yet unknown MATs. Three sets of rebranding; three turns on the academy merry-go-ground.
NOT A ONE-OFF
BBC Radio 4 this morning said WCAT was ‘believed to be’ the first MAT to offload all its academies. The Times today (behind paywall) said WCAT was ‘thought to be the first academy chain to be wound up.’ The iNews said WCAT ‘just the second academy sponsor to make such a move.’ Even TES said only one other MAT had given up all its academies.
Such ignorance by education correspondents on major newspapers is worrying (I was tempted to go further but I’ve stopped spluttering now). Prospects was the first to wind up its operations in May 2014. In February 2017, Schools Week reported than eleven academy trusts were being wound up. Other MATs which have closed include:
MATs becoming insolvent and transferring their academies is not such an isolated incident as claimed by the papers above. Perhaps their education correspondents should read Schools Week and this site in order to keep up.
There’s likely to be a cost when academies are transferred from one trust to another. Schools Week and this site have been battling since 2013 for the DfE to publish rebrokerage costs. The DfE has now said it will publish the data this month. Watch this space.