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Wakefield City Academies Trust: MPs critical of DfE's length of inquiries

Photo: ITV Calendar

The Department for Education (DfE) has been criticised in a report by a group of MPs for taking two years to publish results into the collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust.

Eight thousand pupils were affected when 21 schools, which were run by the trust, collapsed in September 2017. The schools were located in towns and cities across Yorkshire including in Doncaster, Sheffield, Shipley and Goole.

In the report, published on Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said academy trusts must be strengthened, and that the Department for Education's oversight must be more rigorous.

The report said Academy trusts were not sufficiently transparent or accountable to parents and communities, and made a recommendation that results into inquiries should be published within two months of the Education and Skills Funding Agency completing their analysis.

The PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said:

When things go wrong in schools, pupils can be badly affected.

"We have seen the troubling consequences of poor governance and oversight of academy trusts.

"Government must raise its game to ensure the failures of the past are not repeated.

"Parents and the wider community are entitled to proper access to transparent information about their local academy schools.

"They must have confidence that when issues arise, robust measures are in place to deal with them.

"The Government must act to make this happen and, as detailed in our report, we expect the Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to demonstrate they are doing so."

– PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier

The DfE said it disagreed with the findings in the report. In a statement, a spokesperson said:

We do not accept the PAC's negative characterisation of academies, in which standards of education have risen for thousands of pupils.

"Only last week we saw the real-life impact of academies with the Oxbridge offers to children at Harris Westminster, London Academy of Excellence and Brampton Manor Academy.

"The majority of academies are delivering a great education and - as recognised by the PAC - we are taking robust action in the small minority of cases where they are not meeting the high standards expected.

"Academies are subject to higher levels of accountability and transparency than local authority schools.

"Academies must publish their annual accounts and this year we added new requirements on related party transactions.

"We have also taken steps to increase accountability by publishing lists of trusts who do not return accounts on time and by challenging trusts who pay high executive salaries."

– DfE