AN annual report into an academy trust that pulled out of a number of Bradford schools says there had been a “vacuum in the standards of leadership.”

Wakefield City Academies Trust made the dramatic announcement that it was pulling out of all 21 of the schools it runs in September - just days into the new school year.

Three of those schools are in Bradford, Thornbury Academy, Barkerend Academy and High Crags Academy in Shipley.

The trust’s latest annual report and financial statements have just been released, and reveal some of the background that led to WCAT’s announcement it would transfer its schools to other academy chains before winding itself up.

It reveals that results at many of its schools were disappointing, and a review of the trust found it did not have the capacity to improve these results.

However, the accounts, which look at the year up to August 2017, reveal that the trust “will continue to be financially solvent until the point it is wound-up.” Concerns had been raised by governors and politicians and that WCAT was using school funds to prop itself up in light of financial difficulties.

The report says: “Moving forward, the short and medium term financial plan details an improving surplus and reserves position on a year by year basis.

“It is envisaged the trust will be financially solvent beyond the point of re-brokering and until the point of wind-up.”

The three Bradford primary schools that WCAT currently runs will be taken over by the Tauheedul Education Trust later this year.

It is expected that the entire trust will be wound up in August.

Discussing leadership at WCAT, the report says: “The education performance of the trust as identified by student outcomes from August 2016 and Ofsted reviews during 2016/17 supported the initial views of the board that there was a capacity issue with the trust.

“It was noted that improvement was being made, but that it was not good enough or quick enough and that this was the general trend that was happening for a period prior to the current year.”

It says the HR, Standards and Curriculum Committee carried out a performance review of the trust following the 2016 results. The findings of the review were presented to trustees in June and the report says it found there “was not the capacity or capability in the trust to achieve a rapid and sustainable improvement in student outcomes, whether within its current structure or within a down-sized refocussed geographically structured organisation.”

It adds: “There was a vacuum in the standards of leadership required to effect day to day delivery and challenge the fragmented cultural aspects of the academies.

Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, has previously criticised the Department for Education for allowing WCAT to take on so many schools. Referring to this latest report, he said: “The finances of WCAT are not the only concern I have around the Trust, with the School Commissioner worried about exam results in WCAT schools, and the leaked report of the Education Funding Agency’s investigation identifying concerns about WCAT’s inadequate governance and leadership, and I remain deeply suspicious about both the arrangements at WCAT and their management by the Regional Schools Commissioner.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our priority has always been to deliver the improvements pupils and staff at Wakefield City Academies Trust deserve, which is why we were pleased to announce new trusts for 11 of the academies earlier this month and will be confirming new trusts for the remaining schools shortly.

“Like all academy trusts, Wakefield City Academies Trust is subject to a rigorous system of accountability, including an annual independent audit of its accounts, and the latest statements show it has followed all appropriate processes.”