EXCLUSIVE: £0m to £6.5m – the cost of academy transfers
The Department for Education (DfE) paid Attwood Academies £6,450,000 when it took over Bexhill High Academy, one of the academies left in limbo after sponsor Prospects folded, Freedom of Information reveals.
Around 82 academies changed hands during the period under investigation*. To date, I have information for 78. Five were Barnfield academies. These are omitted: the ‘transfer’ was a change of name from Barnfield Academies Trust to The Shared Learning Trust. This reduces the number of transferred academies to 73.
29 academies transferred for £Nil. Spencer Academy Trust received the next lowest amount: £9,800. Creative Education Academies Trust received £25k for two transfers. 10 academies attracted £25k.
Transfer fees for the remaining academies, excluding the exceptional payment to Attwood, ranged from £55k to £230k before leaping to £1m: The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) received £1,052,000 (£474k repayable over three years starting 2017/18**) for Rochester Academy (now The Victory Academy).
Academies where transfer fees were more than £100,000 include:
- South Gloucestershire and Stroud College: £230k for The Forest High School.
- TSAT: £198k for Chatham Grammar School for Boys
- Abbey Multi Academy Trust: £190,704 for taking over Lightcliffe Academy. £115k is repayable**. £75,704 is reimbursement for statutory redundancies.
- The White Horse Federation: £395,748 as a School Improvement Grant for three academies and to cover operating deficit from Gloucester Academy (another Prospects academy which had to find a new sponsor).
The total costs of transferring the 73 academies was £10,581,619. This falls to £4,131,619 if Attwood’s exceptional payment is removed. I have not included this outlier in calculations because of its distorting effect. The total rises to £7,159,072 if the previously-known cost of transferring 23 academies (£3,027,453) is included.
Basing my calculation on 95 academies, the average transfer cost per academy is £75,359.
The Government wants all schools to become academies. As the number of academies increases, so will the number of transfers of academies between trusts. As transfers increase, so will the amount spent on rebrokerage. And rebrokerage doesn’t take into account the other costs which accompany academy conversion: start up grants; grants for stand-alone academies to become multi-academy trusts; grants for sponsors.
Conversion costs will run into millions – millions that could be better spent on tackling school place supply, facing teacher recruitment difficulties and easing the looming school funding crisis. Taxpayers need to be aware of how much mass academy conversion is likely to cost.
I have tried to be as accurate as possible but I have had to rely on academy trusts’ definitions of rebrokerage, the process by which an academy transfers from one trust to another. For example:
- Bright Futures said it received £0 in rebrokerage fees for Wigan UTC but admitted the previous post opening grant of £600,000 was replicated.
- Ambitions Academies Trust told me they received £140k in start-up grant when it took over St Adhelm’s Academy. But Schools Week understood AAT received £1m for building alterations at St Adhelm’s***.
It’s unclear whether the £600k and the £1m was rebrokerage so I haven’t included these amounts in calculations. Such confusion would be avoided if the DfE released the figures. The DfE says it intends to publish but the timescale isn’t known.
*The DfE revealed the £3m cost of 23 academies which changed hands between September 2013 and October 2014. However, it refused to reveal the costs of transfers which took place outside this time frame up to 31 August 2015. I sent individual FoI requests to academy trusts which took on transfers.
**I have included repayable loans in my calculations as these were part of rebrokerage. My understanding is that the total amount repayable is £519k.
ADDENDUM 23 May 2016 13.52.
***Since writing the above, Ambitions Academies Trust have told me the £2m refit of St Adhelm's was identified before rebrokerage. As noted above, I have not included this refurbishment in my calculations.
ARK Schools - Since writing the above, ARK Schools have told me their takeover of St Michael and All Angels CofE Academy was not a transfer. The only connection between the two schools is the site. St Michael and All Angels was closed and its pupils dispersed. ARK was awarded a total of £2,240,621 to set up Ark All Saints Academy on the site of the closed school. The DfE, however, listed St Michael and All Angels and ARK Schools as a change of sponsor on the list they sent me in response to an earlier FoI request (downloadable here). I have not included the £2m+ in my calculations because of the doubt over whether this was rebrokerage or not. As I said above, such confusion could be avoided if the DfE published the transfer costs.