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‘Bradford schools may lose out in academy chain collapse’

Council leaders fear five Bradford schools could be left out of pocket after the collapse of a controversial academy chain.

They have accused the Government of letting pupils down after the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) pulled the plug just days into the start of the new term in September.

Councillor Imran Khan, portfolio holder for Education on Bradford Council, will submit a motion at next Tuesday’s full council meeting which says: “Three primary schools and two secondary schools in our district… stand to lose over £2m.

“We demand the government is transparent with the dealings with WCAT and these monies associated with WCAT are returned urgently for the benefit of children in Bradford.

“We also seek urgent assurance from the Secretary of State for Education to ensure that these types of situations are not allowed to happen again.”

The trust ran Thornbury Academy, Barkerend Academy and High Crags Academy in Shipley when the shock announcement was made.

Last month Shipley MP Philip Davies claimed WCAT had transferred £276,000 from High Crags primary school without consent.

He told MPs at education questions: “Due to 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?”

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

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

The trust had also announced it would be taking over University Academy in Keighley and Hanson School, but dropped those plans last December.

Then, in September WCAT dramatically announced that it would be handing over all of its 21 schools to other academy trusts.

At the time, it said the decision was made because the “trust does not have the capacity to facilitate the rapid improvement our academies need and our students deserve.

“The Board recognises this announcement will cause uncertainty, particularly for our staff. It will work with them to ensure the transition to new sponsors is as seamless as possible.”

It has since been announced that the Tauheedul Education Trust is the preferred sponsor to take over the three Bradford primary schools.

Councillor Mike Pollard, a governor at High Craggs, said: “There is little in the thrust of the Council motion with which I would disagree. It’s a complex mess, but I have already ‘gone public’ expressing the view that both the Regional Schools Commissioner and the DfE have been responsible for an abject lack of effective due diligence here.”

Yesterday, members of the parliamentary education committee questioned the DfE’s regional schools commissioners about the WCAT collapse.

Sir David Carter, the national schools commissioner, blamed the DfE for giving WCAT an “impossible” task by taking on a large number of schools needing substantial improvement.

A DfE spokesman said: “A failing academy trust must never profit from the re-brokerage of its schools. We have provisionally identified preferred new trusts for each of the 21 academies in the Wakefield City Academies Trust and are working with the WCAT to ensure that there is minimal disruption for pupils. We are also working with the preferred trusts and schools to ensure they have the right support and resources they need to improve the outcomes for pupils as quickly as possible, which will include the necessary pupil funding.?”

WCAT said it would not be commenting further on the issues raised by Bradford Council.

Wakefield Council has contacted West Yorkshire Police over the trust, and a police spokesman said: “Following further discussions with the local council information has been now passed to us which we are looking at.

“No crimes have been recorded at this stage and consultations are ongoing with relevant authorities.”

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