EXCLUSIVE: 137 academy trusts missed deadline for sending accounts to DfE, FoI reveals
137 academy trusts missed the 31 December deadline for submitting audited accounts for year ending 31 August 2016 to the Education Funding Agency (EFA), Freedom of Information (FoI) reveals.
Trusts missing the deadline included:
- Dixons Academies Charitable Trust Limited which took over Kings Science Academy, Bradford, after its founder principal was charged and subsequently found guilty of fraud.
- Reach2 Academy Trust which has expanded rapidly to become the largest primary-only academy trust in England with 55 schools.
- Sabres Education Trust which outsourced the running of free school IES Breckland to Swedish for-profit education provider IES.
- University of Chester Academies Trust which was criticised by Ofsted in January for its poor schools improvement.
- GEMS Learning Trust, the charitable arm of global for-profit education provider GEMS Education set up to run academies in England.
- The Basildon Academies which was sent a Financial Notice to Improve in December 2016.
- Two academy trusts set up by for-profit sponsors, The Learning Schools Trust and Erudition Schools Trust, which have decided to end their support for academies in England.
- Ten University Technology Colleges (UTCs).
The Department for Education (DfE) told me ‘trusts have subsequently submitted and continue to submit their audited financial statements’. This ambiguous statement means either all the named trusts have since submitted their accounts or they are continuing to do so. If they’re continuing to send in overdue accounts, then some of the accounts haven’t yet been presented. The DfE said it had sent me dates when accounts were provided but no dates were given. I have asked for these to be supplied.
One trust missing from the list is the West London Free School Academy Trust (WLFS). Companies House says accounts for WLSF for year ending 31 August 2016 aren’t due until 31 May 2017. WLFS isn’t alone in having this deadline but it contradicts the Academies Financial Handbook’s rule that all academy trust accounts must be submitted by the end of December.
It’s hardly surprising the National Audit Office (NAO) has given an ‘adverse opinion’ about DfE accounts when some academy trust accounts aren’t submitted on time and some are allowed an extended deadline of 31 May, eight months after the end of the academies financial year.
The NAO reported that the DfE and the Treasury were ‘working to develop an alternative approach to accounting for academy trusts.’ The DfE’s preferred option was to take academy trust accounts out of the DfE financial statements and produce ‘a separate aggregated account for academies as at 31 August’. This Sector Report is supposed to increase transparency but will only do so if all academy trusts stick to the deadline given in the Academies Financial Handbook.
If academy trusts with the extended deadline of 31 May aren’t included in the list of trusts missing the December deadline, then the number of trusts which didn’t submit accounts on time is likely to be more than 137. The DfE needs to make it absolutely clear what its deadline is and not appear to allow some trusts an extra five months’ grace.