Has Secrecy Returned to Academy Finances?

Henry Stewart's picture
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Cameron promised that academy finances would be freely available to parents. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) demanded data showing academy level expenditure. But go to the DfE Performance Tables and you will find full financial information for maintained schools and nothing comparable for academies.

This is a step backward from last year, when the Department for Education published a spread-sheet of per-student income and expenditure for academies for 2010/11 and displayed this information for individual academies on the performance Table. (This is the source of my recent post on Mossbourne finances.) The DfE were heavily criticised by even Tory MPs on the PAC for not showing the individual school expenditure data if the academy was part of a chain but now no information is available.

For maintained schools simply go to the DfE Performance Tables, type in your post code and you will find comprehensive information for your local schools. Financial information includes income per student, and expenditure ranging from the amount spent on teachers and supply staff to ICT and Energy. But only for maintained schools. For instance check Haggerston School or Urswick, maintained schools in Hackney. And compare with Mossbourne (a sponsored academy) or Clapton Girls (a converter academy) and the financial sections state only "No 2011-2012 Consistent Financial Reporting data"

Cameron: We need to see how much money is going into schools



This is a direct contradiction of the statement that David Cameron made to the House of Commons Liaison Committee in March 2013 in response to questioning by Margaret Hodge, as Fiona Millar wrote about at the time

Hodge: "Take the case of academies . How do we know they provide value for money?"

Cameron: "People can increasingly see the funding per pupil that goes into the school and if we are successful in introducing a more national funding formula for schools that will be even clearer. The parent/teacher /local community knows how much follows the pupil into the school and can then see the results. We need to see how much money going into the schools and the results coming out. This will produce results for very transparent amounts of money that are going in."

fifteen months on, this is manifestly not the case. Neither the parent, the teacher or the local community can see how much income follows the pupil into the school or see how it is spent, if it is an academy.

Public Accounts Committee: Academy Information must be comparable to maintained schools



When the Conservative MPs on the Public Accounts Committee discovered that income and expenditure details were not available at the individual school level, if those schools were part of chains, they were furious. The resulting report was clear in its requirements:

“the Department must insist that every Academy Trust provides it with data showing school level expenditure, including per-pupil costs, and with a level of detail comparable to that available for maintained schools. The Department must then publish this data so that proper judgements and comparisons can be made by Parliament and the public.”

Tory MP Richard Bacon described the lack of financial information as "mind-blowing." At the time Richard was under the impression that income and expenditure information was available for individual academies and, as a whole, for chains. Even that appears to be no longer available. The point he made was that this is public money and the public should be able to see how much schools receive and how it is spent.

Why the new secrecy?



The DfE would be expected to respond to the Public Accounts Committee report by providing more information on academies. Instead they seem to have withdrawn what financial information was available, so Cameron's claims of last year are now far from the truth. It is not currently possible to find out how much money any academy received in 2011/12 (including all the new converter academies) or how they spent it. And, as Tory MP Richard Bacon pointed out, this is public money.

I called the DfE and was told the only way to get financial information on academies was to email the EFA (Education Funding Agency). I have submitted a freedom of information request for full financial information on academies to be released.

 

Note: The DfE site does contain audited accounts for some academies. However these use a completely different format to school accounts and it is not possible to compare with maintained schools or produce comparable figures.

 
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