EXCLUSIVE: School Minister’s academy chain has paid pledge in full
Future Academies, the academy trust set up by John Nash before he became Lord Nash and schools Minister in the Lords, pledged £2m in endowment funds to Pimlico Academy in 2008.
In 2011, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was concerned that money promised by academy sponsors for capital expenditure or endowment sponsorship would not be forthcoming:
‘We were also concerned that some existing sponsors had failed to fulfil the financial contributions they originally pledged to their academies. The status of some of these debts is unclear and, especially as sponsors of new academies are no longer required to make a financial contribution, there is a risk they will never be paid.’
The Department for Education (DfE) told the PAC at the time that it had been unable to discover any information about money pledged to four academies. One of these was Pimlico Academy.
It was strange for the DfE to claim it couldn’t find these figures when an internet search found the data in seconds. A Parliamentary Written Answer written in 2008 showed the level of Future’s endowment commitment to Pimlico.
It wasn’t known, however, how much of the pledge had been paid by the time PAC asked for the data. When I asked last year, the DfE was unable to give details of how much total endowment money had been received to date because ministers had removed the obligation for academy trusts to continue raising money for existing endowments in 2012. The DfE said:
‘This meant that the Department would no longer enforce existing Deeds of Gift. Given this change the Department no longer maintains up to date information on such contributions.’
I sent a Freedom of Information request to Future Academies asking how much of their £2m pledge had been paid. The Trust told me today, ‘The £2,000,000.00 was paid in full over the period 2010-2014 into a fund established for the benefit of Future Academies.’
Future Academies may have paid its endowment sponsorship in full but we do not know how much endowment sponsorship from other academy trusts is still outstanding. And if the DfE isn’t checking, then it’s likely that money promised to academies pre-2010 may, as PAC said, not be recoverable.
NOTE: We do know how much is still outstanding for capital pledges. The amount outstanding in October 2016 was £13m including nearly £6m owed by Harris and £4.4m by Oasis.