EXCLUSIVE: £3.5m given in ‘exceptional grants’ to academy trusts in 2017/18

Janet Downs's picture

£3,559,097 was given out by the Department for Education in ‘exceptional grants’ to stabilise finances in the financial year 2017/18, recently published data reveals*.

Ten academy trusts received bail outs: six UTCs and four schools.  Details for the schools are below.  UTC figures will appear separately.

£773k was given to Plumberow Primary Academy, Hockley, a large primary run by AET since 2011.  AET’s Financial Notice to Improve (FNtI) issued in October 2014 was lifted in July 2017.  At the time of writing, accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 were not at Companies House nor on AETs website.  I am unable, therefore, to discover the reason for this large bail out.

£746k went to The Kingsway Academy, Wirral, an academy sponsored by Northern Schools Trust (NST) in February 2015.  Two-and-a-half years later, NST had DfE approval to close Kingsway.    

NST Accounts (year ending 31 August 2018) said ‘unsustainable’ PFI costs, over supply of secondary places locally and falling pupil numbers contributed to the decision.

Kingsway Academy closed 31 August 2018.  The total outstanding PFI debt of £21m will likely revert to Wirral Council. 

The exceptional grant for The Ridings Federation Winterbourne International Academy, Bristol, was £525,980.  Winterbourne was taken over by The Olympus Trust in February 2018 and renamed Winterbourne Academy.  Transfer fees paid by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) were £80k.

The Ridings Federation of Academies, which previously ran Winterbourne, was issued with a FNtI in November 2016.  This was lifted in February 2018 because conditions had been met.  It’s unclear whether the half-a-million grant was given before or after the lifting of the FNtI.  The Federation’s accounts (year ending 31 August 2017) said a ‘temporary loan’ from ESFA ‘to assist cashflow’ had been repaid.

The Ridings Federation was dissolved in December 2018.

Atlantic Academy Portland, formerly Isle of Portland Community Academy (IPACA), received £518,326.09.  This Is in addition to the £218k grant awarded to IPACA in 2016/17.    IPACA transferred to Aspirations Academies Trust (AAT) on 1 September 2017. Rebrokerage was £150k.   

It’s not known whether the £518k went to the IPACA trust or AAT.  The transfer date of September 2017 comes in the middle of the financial year when emergency funding was given.  At the time of writing, AAT accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 are not at Companies House nor on AAT’s website.

IPACA’s last accounts (year ending 31 August 2017) record a deficit of £1.099m.  It was subject to an FNtI before transfer.  This was closed when AAT took over.  The Independent Reporting Accountant’s Report on Regularity said IPACA accounts included unexplained ‘adjustments’.  The ‘management accounts did not reflect an accurate financial position’.   This meant the Interim Academy Board set up in August 2016 was ‘making decisions on inaccurate financial information’.

IPACA dissolved on 6 November 2018.  It’s unlikely we will ever know what these unexplained adjustments were.




*See here.   The DfE initially refused my request for details of exceptional grants in financial year 2017/18.   This was released on 21 January:  sufficient time had passed since grants were given and trust accounts for academic year 2017/18 should have been published.  Unfortunately, the data appeared under my FoI request for grants given in 2016/17. 

All accounts are either from Companies House or on trust websites.


CORRECTION 24 January 2019: Typo corrected

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Jane Eades's picture
Wed, 23/01/2019 - 22:27

Yet more examples of the instability of the academies programme and the money being wasted in supporting it.  I wonder what the cost to the parents is as uniforms change, let along the money being spent on writing off debts and bribing trusts to take on those schools which have become orphans.

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