Boss of cash-strapped school academy chain ‘spent £1,500 on dog pen’, ex-staff claim

Boss at trust allegedly made hundreds of thousands of pounds as schools were starved of cash

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Monday 23 September 2019 15:51
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Yewlands Academy in Sheffield was one of the schools that Wakefield City Academies Trust used to run.
Yewlands Academy in Sheffield was one of the schools that Wakefield City Academies Trust used to run.

A former CEO of a failed academy chain spent £1,500 on a dog pen in his offices while starving schools of cash, ex-staff have claimed.

Mike Ramsay, former CEO of Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), ran a computer firm - which supplied software to the trust's 21 schools - which made more than £840,000 during his tenure, an investigation into the academy chain alleges.

A BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire programme reports that Mr Ramsay allegedly made hundreds of thousands of pounds despite the academies losing £2m between them in reserves.

Former office manager Kirstie Whipp told the BBC that Mr Ramsay spent £1,500 on a pen for his dogs at his offices while headteachers' pleas for funds were ignored.

She claims she was told to keep her boss's financial documents under lock and key and away from the finance team.

The programme, which will be screened on Monday, also said that two WCAT volunteer trustees, Steve Corne and Peter Mckenzie, were sacked after raising concerns about Mr Ramsay.

They said that Mr Ramsay wanted a huge pay rise despite the trust running a £3m deficit.

Mr Mckenzie said: "[Mr] Ramsay was challenged on this and he explained that he believed that by reducing the number of teaching staff he could address the budget deficit.

"I felt that this was completely fantastical and that it was impossible to remove enough teachers to address the budget deficit and carry on as an academy."

However, Mr Ramsay denies the allegations against him.

He told Inside Out: "I can confirm there was no conflict of interest, all connected party activity was in line with policy and scrutinised internally also by external audit and the ESFA (Educational and Skills Funding Agency) on a number of occasions, all of which is in the public domain."

He said his expenses were submitted in line with policy and scrutinised by the chief financial officer.

Mr Ramsay told Inside Out that WCAT was allowed to expand too quickly without the resources to support the high number of schools needing improvement.

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“Sadly, educational support was not enough or at the required level to make a difference,” he said.

The Department for Education said it had taken steps to tighten accountability - including tougher action over related party transactions over £20,000 and high CEO salaries.

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