Academy transfer costs to be published, Schools Week has found

Janet Downs's picture
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The Department for Education (DfE) says it will include 'transfers and funding' in statistics due to be released in September, Schools Week has found.  It's understood that the cost of academy transfers, known as rebrokerage, will be included.

It remains to be seen whether the released data will include the cost of rebrokering each academy or whether only a total will be given.  In the DfE accounts for the financial year 2016/17, rebrokerage was lumped together with conversion costs making it impossible to know how much the transfer of academies is costing taxpayers.  And we don't know the timescale of the data - whether it will include only transfers in, say, the last academic year, or the costs of all transfers since rebrokerage began.

The DfE has dragged its feet over publishing academy transfer costs.  These can vary from £0 to £6.5m.  It has to be said that this eye-watering figure is not typical.  My May 2016 estimate, based on FoI requests to individual academy trusts, showed the average transfer cost of each academy was £75k (not including the £6.5m).  

But this figure isn't reliable.  I don't know whether the trusts I contacted included, say, £25k grant for legal costs (£25k being the grant given to converting schools).  One trust complained it wasn't given legal costs.  But another said it had been given money to cover legalities.

Apart from the £25k grant which may or may not be paid to trusts taking over other academies, there's also the question about what else is included in rebrokerage.  Bright Futures, for example, told me it received £0 for rebrokerage but admitted it received £600k which replicated the previous post opening grant for Wigan UTC.    Bright Futures has since relinquished control of Wigan UTC.  It's was transferred again on 1 February 2017 - this time to Northern Schools Trust.  A case of re-rebrokerage, perhaps.

Whether it's rebrokerage, re-rebrokerage or academy musical chairs, transferring academies costs money.  Even if rebrokerage is officially £0, there's the cost of rebranding.  And parents are often faced with buying a new uniform - especially irksome if they did the same when their school converted to an academy.

It's inevitable that the number of transferred academies will rise.  Stand-alone academy trusts may feel they need to join a multi-academy trust (MAT) despite the loss of autonomy this brings.  MATs wind up - as Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust has done.   Others drop academies when Ofsted judges them less than good - an academy which requires improvement or is indadequate harms a MAT's reputation.  Others are academies where the MAT grew too quickly and had to offload some of its schools.

The DfE needs to be transparent about the cost of each individual transfer - giving the total cost, although a step in the right direction, is not good enough.

 

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