EXCLUSIVE: First anniversary of unkept DfE promise to release academy transfer fees
On 7 March 2016 I received an email from the Department for Education (DfE). It told me the DfE intended to release in the future the details of rebrokerage fees, the money paid to each multi-academy trust (MAT) when it agrees to take over another academy:
‘The Department can now confirm that there is an intention to publish the data requested at a future date. We will confirm publication details to you, given your registered interest in this area, once plans have been finalised.’
That was twelve months ago and the costs of transferring academies still aren’t in the public domain.
Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, wrote a letter, dated 26 January 2017, to my MP apologising for the delay. He explained the DfE still had ‘an intention to publish this information’ and officials were ‘currently working on collating the data’.
The DfE has had twelve months to collate the figures and still hasn’t managed it. This is surprising. Surely the Department knows how much it has paid each MAT for rebrokerage?
My own research showed the average transfer cost was £75k but this was based on what each MAT said they received. The data may not be accurate. It’s unclear whether these individual costs included grants for legalities or start-up or whether such grants are kept separate from rebrokerage. Neither is it clear whether any cancellation, in whole or in part, of deficits accrued by the transferred academy are included in transfer fees on a repayment basis or quietly written-off.
As more academies are transferred from one trust to another, the DfE has an obligation to publish the costs involved. It should form part of, say, quarterly publication of data.
It is well over a year since a Court ruling said the DfE should release the costs of transferring 23 academies which had changed hands during a set period. There was a public interest in rebrokerage costs being published, the Court said. The DfE complied and released the figures but has since refused to release data about rebrokerage fees before and after the set period on the grounds of cost and having a ‘settled intention’ to publish.
But an intention to publish sometime in the future shouldn’t be used to delay publication indefinitely. It’d difficult not to think the DfE is dragging its feet.