Concerns raised over Doncaster academies trust that paid chief executive £82k for 15 weeks work

Mexborough Academy is one of four schools in Doncaster managed by the Wakefield City Academies Trust.
Mexborough Academy is one of four schools in Doncaster managed by the Wakefield City Academies Trust.
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A leaked report has revealed ‘extreme’ Government concern about an academies trust which looks after three Doncaster schools, after it was found to have paid its interim chief executive £85,000 for 15 weeks work.

An investigation into the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) which runs schools across the region including Carr Lodge, Montagu Academy and Waverley Academy in Doncaster found that the company has been put in an 'extremely vulnerable position as a result of inadequate governance, leadership and overall financial management,' the Times Educational Supplement reported.

The leaked papers reveal that the Department for Education’s funding agency (the EFA) said the 'lack of openness and transparency' about the company's decision to remove trustees from the board raised questions about whether managers had acted in the trust’s best interests.

According to the EFA investigation, the academy trust anticipated large deficit budgets over the coming five years and the business was in urgent need of a 'robust and detailed recovery plan'.

It found that Mr Ramsay, the former chair of the board, had been paid £82,025 between February and May this year, despite not being formally employed by the company.

It also found that trust’s project deficit budget currently stands at a loss of £16million.

According to the investigation, there was also no record of the board approval to appoint Mr Ramsay into the role.

A review of invoices submitted by the interim CEO revealed that the trust had been paying mileage costs to Mr Ramsay at a rate of 82p per mile – rather than the approved rate in the trust’s policy of 42p.

He was paid £3,229 in mileage expenses from February to May – of which £1,457 was outside the trust approved rates.

It is understood that trust paid the higher rate after taking legal advice because Mr Ramsay was a contractor.

WCAT chair, John Hargreaves, said: “Following their visit to the Trust and two of its academies in June, the EFA outlined a number of issues from its inspection. These observations, some of which were legacy issues relating to the previous management of the Trust, were discussed in a draft document in August.

“A number of the observations were not accurate and have been strongly refuted by the Trust. Subsequently, the EFA made a number of recommendations that were to be addressed within a robust action plan and the strategic plan created and implemented by the new Trust board.

“All of the recommendations made by the EFA have been satisfactorily completed or are underway given the time frames involved. The members of the Trust, working with the iCEO, took action early in July forming a new board which now has nine directors with three functioning committees.”

“The EFA confirmed this month the Trust was ‘actively making progress’ against the recommendations. It has asked for a further progress report in January. All of this work undertaken by the new board, iCEO and business and education teams at WCAT is about providing the best education possible in our academies.

“The Trust has, over the past two years, taken responsibility for schools with longstanding financial issues, serving some of Yorkshire’s most challenging communities. We are seeing positive signs on the educational front that they are being turned around by our dedicated and hard-working staff, despite all the difficulties they have faced.

“The board and executive team’s focus is on those students and staff. We are looking forward and won’t be distracted by what’s gone on in the past.”