Playing the hokey cokey with academy transfer costs – what’s in and what’s out

Janet Downs's picture

You put some costs in

You take some costs out…

 The Department for Education appears to be dancing the hokey cokey with what’s included in published data about the cost of transferring academies (aka rebrokerage).

 Some costs won’t appear in the published figures.  That doesn’t mean they won’t have been paid – they just won’t appear in the data.

So what’s in and what’s out for 2016/17

Let’s start with what’s out.  Deficit payments and diseconomies of scale have always been out.  But the former can be very large as I pointed out yesterday

Excluded funding now includes:

  • Capital costs (Capital costs can be considerable: £6m in one case) 
  • Statutory redundancies  (Omitting these can hide the cost of reducing staff on transfer)

What will be in published transfer costs for 2016/17?

  • Leadership support, teaching and learning interventions, curriculum re-design, pupil-focused support etc  (Surely this should come out of the MAT's  increased budget for having taken on another school?)
  • Staff re-structuring (But not statutory redundancies)
  • Legal services relating to the transfer (In theory, these have always been included but a large proportion of MATs were recorded by the DfE as having received nothing in rebrokerage.  If each of these did in fact receive legal costs then this raises the total transfer cost)
  • Communication and marketing support, including re-branding (Public relations puff, then.   Plenty of money to be made by PR consultants on glossy websites and media exposure.)
  • HR and recruitment services to support any TUPE process and senior leader appointments.  (The £25k grants given when schools convert to academy status is supposed to cover admin and legal costs.  If, as implied, MATs taking over other academies receive this then it should cover this spending.)
  • Financial management and advice to establish the AT’s finance and management information systems.  (It should be expected that MATs taking over new academies would already be competent in managing finances.)

There are other ways to reduce the true cost of academy transfers.  The DfE has a Regional Academy Growth Fund which awards cash to help academy trusts expand.  A trust given RAGF funding could use this to take over an academy as well as encouraging non-academies to convert and join the MAT.  Academy transfers funded by RAGF would be excluded from published rebrokerage data.  

Similarly, Schools Week discovered the DfE is underwriting some academy trusts against possible future problems in the form of indemnities.  In one case, Aspirations Academies Trust, Schools Week understands that as part of a possible takeover of Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy the DfE said ‘any debt’ from the transfer would ‘only have to be repaid if the school can afford this’ and ‘even then this would be capped at £150,000 per year’. 

Encouraging MATs to take over academies with financial problems and a poor Ofsted is likely to involve carrots of some description.  If the DfE doesn’t do so then it risks increasing the number of ‘toxic’ schools.  Just as long as the sweetener remains outside academy transfer costs.



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