In a consultation paper
(round one) into school funding, the DfE admits that funding academies at the present level is “unsustainable” and is “not suitable for a system where the number of Academies is growing rapidly.” The DfE goes as far as to admit that “it is not possible, under the current system, to deliver transparent and absolutely comparable funding for maintained schools.”
The DfE wants to introduce a fairer school funding system which will ensure that schools with similar levels of pupil intake receive similar levels of funding, and that more resources should be targeted at schools with disadvantaged pupils. This move to fairer funding is to be applauded. However, it should be a warning to schools rushing to convert because they think they will receive more money. The consultation paper makes it clear that academies should only receive money needed to fund their increased responsibilities
which include central staff costs, costs of certain employment terminations and costs of a local authority's statutory/regulatory duties. Schools wanting to convert may think this extra money is not worth the considerable administrative and legal burden.
The consultation paper asks whether school funding should be based on a national formula or should permit flexibility to allow funding to respond to local circumstances. The latter option immediately raises a problem for academies and free schools. If their funding were affected by local flexibility, then that funding would be affected by decisions made by LAs. The DfE recognises that this would be inconsistent with their independence.
So the DfE is already foreseeing problems with academy conversion and free schools. These problems should have been anticipated and resolved before promoting these schools so aggressively. Will schools who have hastily changed to academies wish they had heeded this warning: Convert in haste - repent at leisure?
PS There is a companion consultation paper running alongside the above. It deals with academy funding for 2012/13. I haven’t read it yet. I’ll post comments later.