Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’

Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

October 25, 2017
4 min read

‘Fear’, ‘blame’, ‘concern’, ‘inadequate’, ‘alarming’ — just a few of the ways in which the situation at the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report revealed by tes this Tuesday, which tells of a Trust run ‘on the basis of fear’.

For parents, teachers and children in my area these words will be sadly all too familiar. The recent closure of the 21 schools ran by WCAT has caused untold disruption and created a climate of anger and distrust among those affected.

What will be more shocking, however, is that the report’s author is Chris Pickering, the current interim Chief Executive of WCAT, and that he was writing the report as early as June of this year.

According to tes, Pickering’s report highlights a series of key failures at WCAT, including insufficient leadership, a failure to adhere to proper HR processes, a lack of collaboration between individual academies, and ‘ill-considered’ financial practices.

This chimes strongly with the experiences of those affected by the closures. Just this week, I spoke to parents, staff and one pupil who came to London to lobby the government. They all agreed that WCAT and the government’s dealings were behind closed doors and full of secrecy. “It’s unfair” was the overriding response.

This follows a public meeting held in September, organised by unions and myself, where we heard from staff and parents as they described the inadequacy with which WCAT ran the schools, the lack of respect and professional courtesy with which they were and are still treated, and the anxiety this has caused.

But to hear it from the horse’s mouth, and via a leak, is something altogether more worrying, especially considering WCAT’s failure to acknowledge any wrongdoing in their correspondence with my office and others pursuing accountability. It seems honesty isn’t a courtesy afforded to those who most deserve it.

Indeed, the extent to which WCAT was aware of its own institutional shortcomings, and possibly its impending collapse, further exposes the cowardice of its decision to notify parents and teachers of this only after the new school year had started.

In any professional circumstance, such a lack of communication is inexcusable, but when it comes to the future of the children in our community, it’s even worse. WCAT comprehensively failed to provide the duty of care they owed, and arguably still owe, the children formerly under its stewardship. It is these children, now unable to attend school, who are paying the price for WCAT’s neglect.

In light of the revelations contained in the report, WCAT must now pursue a radically more open and reflective approach, and so too must the Department for Education and the Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which it is alleged may take over the running of the schools.

In terms of the bigger picture, the failure of WCAT may be the most significant example of academy failure, but when considering the well-documented problems of other academies across the country, serious questions need to be asked about the way they are being ran, and even of the model itself.

Part of the problem is of course inadequate funding, and Labour has been critical of the Government’s spending plans for schools, which fail to address a developing crisis. Even the Conservative Party donor and academy chief Lord Harris has called for a considerable funding increase, partly to help fund higher pay for teachers.

Yet we must be careful. In his report Pickering noted that WCAT was “run on the basis of secrecy, a closed organisation typified by lack of transparency,” and there are now reports of asset-stripping and the unethical awarding of contacts having taken place at the academy chain.

WCAT may be an extreme case, but unless we know where taxpayer’s money is going we may well be pouring water into a bucket full of holes. Accountability and democracy must be restored to our schooling system, and whoever takes over the 21 schools that WCAT failed must realise this too.

Jon Trickett is the Labour MP for Hemsworth. Find him on twitter at @jon_trickett

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright