EXCLUSIVE: £3m – the cost to taxpayer of transferring 23 academies.

Janet Downs's picture

£3,027,453 – that’s how much it cost for 23 academies to transfer from one academy trust to another between September 2013 and October 2014.

The Department for Education (DfE) had refused to reveal transfer expenditure but a Court ruled the data must be published.  I received the information yesterday.

Seven of the 23 involved no cost at all. 

  1.  Manchester Communication Academy had been co-sponsored by Manchester College and BT.  Sole sponsorship moved to BT.
  2. Three Coventry academies, including Sidney Stringer Academy, had been sponsored by City College Coventry.  Sponsorship moved to Sidney Stringer Academy Trust after City College was judged Inadequate. 
  3.  Red House Academy moved to Northern Education Trust.  Questions were raised in September 2014 when an Education Select Committee report revealed more than £750k had been paid by NET to an associated company.
  4.  David Ross Education Trust took over Charles Read Academy after the academy’s sponsor, WGAT, decided to close it.
  5.  The Thetford Academy joined the rapidly expanding Inspiration Academy Trust.  Dame Rachel de Souza, Chief Executive of Inspiration is an appointed member of the Headteacher Board which meets with one of the Regional Schools Commissioners whose responsibilities including deciding the identity of sponsors. This raises questions of conflict of interest if heads on these boards are also members of academy trusts which could benefit from RSC decisions. 

It cost taxpayers £1.5m+ to transfer eight E-Act academies to new sponsors.  The DfE told E-Act to give up some of its academies after critical Ofsted reports and the discovery that E-Act had been operating in a culture of extravagance. 

Nearly £500k was spent on transferring two Richard Rose academies to United Learning.  Transferring two free schools originally run by CET cost £237,000.

£302k was spent transferring Stamford Queen Eleanor School, now Stamford Welland Academy, from CfBT to CMAT.  CfBT claimed it gave up Queen Eleanor because it was ‘geographically isolated’.  This is odd because CfBT has had a presence in Lincolnshire for over ten years and still has two secondary schools within 20 miles of Stamford.

So why did CfBT drop Queen Eleanor?  CMAT had supported a proposal for a secondary free school in Stamford.  This was turned down but CMAT says the DfE asked the trust to take over sponsorship of Stamford Queen Eleanor ‘allowing the delivery of the Stamford Free School vision to be rolled out’.   This roll out cost £300k in transfer fees.

Transferring Isle of Sheppey Academy to Oasis cost nearly £196k.

The academy transfer market is growing – just over 100* changed from one academy trust to another by 31 August 2015.   I’ve submitted a FoI request asking for how much taxpayers have paid to facilitate these transfers.

The Government wants all schools to be academies.   As the number increases so will the number changing hands. There will be no end to this expenditure.  The Government has created a system which will require spending on transfers far into the future.

*This includes the 23 discussed here.

ADDENDUM: The above discussion covers just 19 of the 23 transferred academies.  The remaining four, including two CET free schools in London, cost a total of nearly £300k to transfer them to new multi-academy trusts.



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James Coombs's picture
Thu, 18/02/2016 - 17:10

I’ve never expressed a view one way or the other on either academies or selective education preferring to see fact based information driving well informed public debate (although that hasn’t stopped one authority from stating that I appear to be, “ultimately arguing that a selective school should not be selective” in the process of refusing to release a brief summary of past consultations.)

In October 2014 I requested the raw 11+ test marks before ‘standardisation’ from CEM.  Section 10 of the FOIA requires information to be provided,“promptly and in any event not later than the twentieth working day” which, if the authority is determined to not release it is a joke.  CEM argue they can’t release the raw test marks because this would undermine their 'tutor-proof’ tests.  Paradoxically I cannot find any statement from CEM claiming that their tests are tutor-proof, less still any evidence.  I wish I’d seen this ruling before as I could have quoted Judge Farrer, “it has no experience to draw on [that releasing test results undermines tutor-proof element] or none which was put in evidence.” Worrying that the Information Commissioner accepted their position with no supporting evidence and until the last week or so I’d not even seen the arguments for non-disclosure so I could respond to them.

CEM appear to be individually weighting each question to introduce arbitrary precision thus enabling  schools to further ‘distinguish’ (sic) between candidates.  The test itself is fundamentally unchanged, a couple of hours of multiple choice questions, but thanks to some creativity the results are 100 times more ‘precise’.  The problem is what constitutes an ‘appropriate’ level of precision for measuring anything is open to debate although Stephen Strand, Professor of Education at Oxford University said “I agree that SAS to 2 decimal places is wildly over-precise”.  Secondly the only reason to use ‘local standardisation’, in which candidates are only compared against each other, is to disguise any long term increase in 'grammar school standard' and prevent comparison between schools.   I thought admissions were supposed to operate in an open and transparent way. 

Releasing the information will lead to very valid question being asked such as; "Why did my child, who sat the same test as another child the same age and correctly answered the same number of questions get a lower mark because they correctly answered a different question?"  but until/unless this information is released all this remains speculation on my part. 

The government are currently 'reviewing' the FOIA.  Chris Grayling, the leader of the House of Commons explaining, “It is, on occasion, misused by those who use it as, effectively, a research tool to generate stories for the media, and that is not acceptable.” (Hansard)  



The government clearly believe that journalists and the occasional amateur should not conduct effective research into the conduct of public affairs!  I’d urge anyone who cares about anything to go and sign every petition they can find which asks the government to keep their hands off the Freedom of Information Act.  

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