Struggling academy trust told to give up academies – CEO blamed funding cuts

Janet Downs's picture
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The Rye Academy Trust must ‘arrange for its schools to join a strong multi-academy Trust’ by 1 September 2018, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) says. 

ESFA served a Financial Notice to Improve to Rye Academy Trust on 8 September following months of ESFA support.  

Accounts for the year ending 31 August 2016, which were submitted late to ESFA, show the Trust submitted an initial recovery plan to the Education Funding Agency (ESFA’s predecessor) in December 2016.  This was revised in January 2017.

Despite this support, ESFA still had concerns about the weak financial position, governance and financial management at Rye Academy Trust.

The Trust has three academies: a primary academy, Rye Community Primary School; a secondary academy, Rye College; and a studio school opened  by Michael Gove in June 2014 shortly before he was sacked as education secretary. 

Rye College was judged Good after it converted.  Rye Community Primary School has not been inspected since joining the Trust in March 2015 but the predecessor local authority school was judged Good in 2011.  Rye Studio School was downgraded from Outstanding to Requires Improvement in December 2016.

Transferring the two Good academies should not be too difficult but the studio school may find it tough to attract a sponsor.  It’s been struggling to fill spaces and announced in March it would not be admitting Year 10 or Year 12 students in September.  Inspectors found it was ‘less than half full’ and this had ‘had a significant impact on the budget’.  

In March, Tim Hulme, CEO of Rye Academy Trust, blamed school funding cuts for the Trust’s financial woes.  He told a local paper:

The trust is a relatively small one and cannot sustain the current level of operating costs against a backdrop of cuts to pupil funding. It is already struggling to maintain services and is cutting some activities.’

A huge amount of taxpayers’ money has been spent on turning schools into academies.  Conversion was encouraged by the perception that academies would receive extra money.  But that small amount of extra funding has to purchase services previously provided by local authoritiesIt must also pay for the extra administrative burdens associated with financial governance and legalities associated with running a company and a charity.

As funding cuts bite, it’s likely other academy trusts will go under.  It’s already becoming difficult to find multi-academy trusts willing to take over struggling academies on the transfer market.  The time may come when the only sensible option for rudderless academies is to return them to local authority stewardship.

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Comments

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 20/09/2017 - 13:06

No wonder all schools including Academies are short of money when the DfE spends vast amounts on costs other than teachers, learning materials and equipment. Such costs in the days of LEAs were tiny in proportion to the marketisation-related , 'overheads' of Academies, Free Schools and their MATs. This includes ludicrous salaries for non teachers and educationally unqualified 'Executives', lawyers, PR consultants etc.

If only failing Academies and Free Schools could be 'returned to LAs'. Far too many are now not up to the job. When I was appointed to the headship of a Cumbria LEA school in 1989, the Education Department was excellent with schools receiving great support from well qualified and experienced staff in respect of teaching Advisors and in support of buildings, HR, legal and other functions. These people, like heads were not paid vast 'Executive' Salaries and were 'in house'. Things started to go down the pan at the County Council when a lot of services were contracted out to 'CAPITA' and the LEA was forced by the new Labour government to impose all sorts or rubbish 'strategies' on schools (eg the KS3 Strategy designed to improve secondaries the way the 'Primary Strategy' had improved primaries - JOKE!!). However the rot really set in when the LEA was abolished and replaced with Cabinet government and schools run by the new 'Childrens Services' department under the control of a social worker, brought about disastrous Academisation schemes and the bulldozing of good schools to be replaced by executive housing.

Rant over!


Nairb1's picture
Wed, 20/09/2017 - 20:32

Keep on ranting Roger. It's crucial.


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