AN under-fire school trust which is mired in controversy over its finances leaving many staff members fearing for their jobs has been accused of embarking on a ‘witch hunt’ after anonymous staff members spoke out.

St Mary’s Academy Trust (SMAT) oversee All Saints’ Academy in Darfield, Darton Primary, Dodworth St John’s, Elsecar Holy Trinity, Queens Road Academy, Royston St John’s, The Mill Academy, West Meadows and St Mary’s Church of England Primary.

‘Budgetary shortfalls’ were uncovered and subsequently blamed on hiked energy bills, increasing staff costs and reducing pupil numbers, with demands ‘likely to increase’ over the coming years.

One ‘devastated’ employee’s thoughts who spoke out over the leadership team’s handling of the situation resulted in a ‘witch hunt’ being carried out this week in a bid to uncover their identity, colleagues allege.

A staff member, who claims people are being accused of being a ‘mole’ by bosses, described the working environment as a ‘toxic atmosphere’.

“We’re walking around on eggshells and many staff have been grilled by the chief executive since the story broke last week,” they told the Chronicle.

“People have been accused in one-on-one meetings of being responsible for outing the story and a lot of finger-pointing has been going on.

“It’s a toxic environment and the atmosphere has been awful, and it’s all because the story was true the staff member only spoke out because they were concerned over what we all know has been happening for months.

“We’re ordinary, hard-working people whose jobs are in jeopardy.

“The way it’s been handled is upsetting and disgraceful.”

Tamara Gulliver came in as its interim chief executive in November last year following ex-boss Melanie Priestley’s departure two months prior.

A statement in response to the fresh allegations made by staff this week, issued by chair of the trust board Tracy Rodger, said processes had been followed.

“SMAT has followed its internal processes, which I am sure people can appreciate are confidential,” the statement added.

“We will continue, as previously stated, to have the needs and interests of our students at the heart of what we do as we move SMAT in a positive direction.”