2017/18 academy transfer costs omit figures once included

Janet Downs's picture

Capital costs and statutory redundancies no longer in data

Academy transfer costs for financial year 2017/18 show 255 academies moved between trusts in the financial year 2017/18.    This takes the total number of academies transferred since April 2013 to 628, or 3.3% of all academies in England.      

Although more academies transferred in 2017/18 than in 2016/17, the total grant provided in 2017/18 decreased to £5.7m from £8.4m in the previous financial year.

Not possible to compare transfer costs with earlier years

It’s not possible to compare transfer costs for the last two financial years with those from earlier years.  That’s because capital costs and statutory redundancies which used to be included (at least in theory) are now omitted.  But these can be considerable as I point out here.  

Deficit reduction has always been excluded

Deficit reduction on transfer has always been excluded from the data as have diseconomies of scale.  But deficit write-down can be substantial.  For example, The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) told me in a Freedom of Information response that it received £802k to cover losses from The Bishop of Rochester Academy (now The Victory Academy).   £474k of this was repayable over three years starting 2017/18.  But the Department for Education says it paid only £26k to TSAT on transfer.

Omissions hide true transfer costs

These omissions hide the true cost of rebrokerage.  But they also raise ethical questions.  Why, for example, should schools in crumbling accommodation have to wait until they are taken over by a trust to get essential building work?  It’s as if the DfE postpones necessary rebuilding until forced to do so.  Whitehaven Academy is an example – ten years ago the predecessor school was reaching the end of its natural life but it is only now, when the school is practically unusable, that ‘substantial capital investment’ will materialise following rebrokerage. 

Publication of transfer costs welcome – but other information remains unpublished

The annual publication of these costs is welcome – and only achieved because of campaigning by Schools Week and this site.  The government says it supports transparency but the amount of time which elapsed before the DfE published rebrokerage costs shows lip-service rather than true devotion to openness.  If the DfE is truly committed to clarity, it should publish the delayed application forms and impact assessments for free schools opened since 2016.  Postponing this information only increases the perception that the DfE has something to hide.   

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