Some years ago I visited Mossbourne, to learn from their remarkable success. Impressed by the huge range of extra after-school provision, I asked Michael Wilshaw how they could afford it. I remember his words well: "Because we get more funding than your school does. You should become an academy." When asked the same question on the BBC Today programme last Thursday, again referring to the after-school provision, Sir Michael gave a different answer. He stated that Mossbourne had received only the same level of funding as other schools. Which response is accurate?
Funding for Mossbourne
Last year the Department for Education did, for the first time, publish income and expenditure data
for individual academies:
Mossbourne, total income per student, 2010/11: £10,335
Funding compared to Inner London schools with high FSM
Now Mossbourne is an inner London school, with a high level of free school meals. How does this compare to other similar schools, and especially to those that weren't academies? I have not managed to locate a school-by-school spreadsheet for maintained schools in 2010/11 and so am going to give figures for 2009/10. (This seems fair as total DfE expenditure on secondary schools in England in 2010/11 was actually 0.6% lower than in 2009/10.) Analysing the data by the free school meal band:
High FSM: Income of £7,952 per student
Medium FSM: £7,293
Low FSM: £6,387
So Mossbourne received, in 2010/11, 30% more funding per student than the average for inner London secondary schools with high levels of free school meals. This represents £2.85 million extra, given it was registered as having 1,194 students at the time.
Funding compared to Inner London schools with similar FSM
The DfE lists Mossbourne as having, on its measure at that time, 35.9% of students on free school meals. Taking the band of Inner London schools between 31% and 41% FSM (ie, 5% on either side of Mossbourne), we find an even bigger gap:
Average income per pupil for similar FSM: £7,425
Of the 21 schools in this FSM range, only three received more than £8,000 per student and the highest (Southfields Community College in Wandsworth) was on £8,462 - almost £2,000 per student less than Mossbourne. The only other school in Hackney in this band of similar levels of free school meals (Cardinal Pole on 38.4% FSM) received just £7,172 per student.
Some caveats have to be added to this analysis. The DfE notes that "academies receive additional funding to reflect the wider responsibilities that are carried out by the local authority for maintained schools". This refers to the mysterious LACSEG grant, which is designed to calculate the extra an academy should receive in place of local authority services and which baffled even the Public Accounts Committee. However it would certainly be expected to be nowhere near £2.8 million.
(Note: I have only compared Mossbourne to schools that held maintained status at the time. It may be that Sir Michael's statement is accurate if Mossbourne is compared to other academies. The DfE spread-sheet suggests six other academies received more than £10,000 per student.)
Mossbourne: Funding Works
Nothing is certain in the complex world of academy accounts. However the above comparisons indicate that Mossbourne has actually been funded to levels significantly above those of similar maintained schools. Indeed its 2011 accounts, from Companies House, suggest the school hasn't spent all the money and had a very large surplus, £2.2 million, in the bank at 31st August 2011.
There has been a lot of hype around Mossbourne, as the poster child for academies. Some of this hype is not justified. It is not, for instance, true that it replaced a failing school. The previous school on the site, Hackney Downs, closed in 1995 - nine years before Mossbourne opened. Mossbourne has a completely new set of buildings and a very different intake - the 36% of students on free school meals compares to 77% at Hackney Downs.
Also its intake is not as disadvantaged as is sometimes claimed. The Mossbourne cohort is, measured by their Year 6 CATs scores, actually at the national average and well above the Hackney average. Indeed a change in the Mossbourne admissions policy this year will ensure that its intake is permanently above the Hackney average, as they are now banding by national ability levels rather than local ones.
However, even if it is sometimes over-hyped, there is no doubt that Mossbourne's achievements are remarkable. It consistently achieves one of the highest figures for value added for its students in the country. Indeed if you take out those schools who achieve high value added by gaming the system with GCSE equivalents (which Mossbourne, unlike other academies, tends not to do) it is arguably a whole level above other schools in the progress its students achieve.
Sir Michael is right to be proud of what he achieved at Mossbourne, and part of that is down to the high expectations that he described on the Today programme and which are certainly key to the success story. However what made possible the extra support and after-school activities that he described may well be a level of funding beyond that of other similar schools. As I have suggested before
it appears that funding works when it comes to schools.