PARENTS and students of Whitehaven Academy have been "let down", a government official admitted.

Jonathan Slater, the Department for Education’s permanent secretary, has spoken out about the problem-plagued school saying the school's management "has not been up to the task".

And it was revealed that Bright Tribe trust, which runs Whitehaven Academy, may have to pay back money it received from government for the academy, if the cash has not been spent on what it was intended.

Numerous issues were raised at the government's Public Accounts Committee.

Meg Hillier, committee chair, highlighted the “scandal” of Whitehaven Academy which is battling with problems including dilapidated buildings, asbestos and exposed wires.

Mr Slater was quizzed about what he would say to parents and children about the management of the school.

He said: "Clearly, they have been let down, haven’t they, by management that has not been up to the task. Bright Tribe is rightly withdrawing and we are at the final stages of engagement with the trust that will take over."

He said the Cumbria Education Trust is working through the final stages to take it over which requires "an educational standards response and a capital response to problems".

Andrew McCully, the education department’s director general of infrastructure and funding, said the Cumbria Education Trust should get "the support it needs" to tackle concerns.

The Education Schools Funding Agency experts, and other government officials, have visited the school in the past week, the committee heard.

Mr Slater said government did not know how much is going to cost to tackle problems, but he added: "We will seek to hold to the maximum account possible those people who have not been doing the job properly."

Details of issues have been given to the National Audit Office

He added: "This is not good enough. Bright Tribe are leaving the area and we need to sort this out."

Mr McCully said a number of capital funds has been allocated for the school including loans and capital allocations.

"If that money has not been spent for the purpose it was allocated we have the levers to ensure that is secured back from the trust," he said.

Following the meeting, Julie Rayson, of Whitehaven Academy Action Group, said: "I'm pleased that Meg Hillier is bringing them to account, and highlighting everything.

"Any investigations into Bright Tribe's finances would be welcomed."

She said she "appreciated" a visit by David Carter, the national School's Commissioner, to the school last week. A host of topics were discussed.

Mr Carter has also offered to keep in touch on a monthly basis to discuss progress, Mrs Rayson added.