Six UTCs received exceptional grants from the Department for Education (DfE) to stabilise their finances in the financial year 2017/18, recently-published data* reveals.
UTC Harbourside, Newhaven, received £300k. A Financial Notice to Improve (FNtI) was issued in March 2018 following failure to achieve a balanced budget. Ofsted placed it in special measures in May. Accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 show a net deficit of £389,105.
UTC Harbourside will close at the end of August 2019.
Sir Charles KAO UTC, Harlow, received £255k. Accounts for Harlow UTC trust for year ending 31 August 2017 report a deficit of £905,416.
The UTC expected to transfer to Burnt Mill Academy Trust (BMAT) in January 2018. This was delayed until September. The transferred UTC is now BMAT Stem Academy.
A failure to recruit sufficient student numbers contributed to the UTC’s financial woes.
Wigan UTC was given nearly £170k. The UTC has already been transferred twice: first from the original stand-alone trust to Bright Futures and then to Northern Schools Trust (NST) in February 2017. Transfer fees to NST were £108,500.
NST accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 say student recruitment is a ‘major concern’.
The JCB Academy, Staffordshire, the oldest UTC, received £150k (see update below - this was an advance not a grant). Accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 show a deficit of £1,586,000. It also received a £650k loan from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) repayable by August 2024. The trust owes ESFA £81,634 for undistributed 16-19 bursary funds.
JCB Academy recently dropped its admission age to 13. It hopes allowing Year 9 pupils to attend will ‘significantly increase income’.
UTC Cambridge was awarded £101k. The trust behind the UTC ‘ceased activity’ on 1 September 2017. All assets were transferred to Cambridge Academic Partnership (CAP) and the UTC renamed Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology (CAST).
CAP accounts for year ending 31 August 2018 say CAST’s long-term viability ‘is subject to continuous review’. ESFA has accepted that the £239k deficit caused by ‘lower than expected student numbers’ has ‘been deferred for review after 2012/21’. Trustees say this deficit and a further £119k ‘Contingent Liability’ can only be repaid from future surpluses at CAST.
CAP accounts name just two members following the resignation of five members in 2018. It may be new members have since joined the trust as CAP would be in breach of academy rules if it continues with only two. The Academies Financial Handbook stipulate a minimum of three members.
Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC (HAE UTC) received £20k. It had previously received an FNti following failure to balance its books. The UTC closed on 31 August for a ‘fresh start’. It reopened on 1 September with Activate Learning Trust and renamed UTC Heathrow.
An Inability to recruit sufficient student numbers is a problem besetting many UTCs. Recruiting at 14 was always going to be difficult. Dropping the age of entry to 13, as JCB academy has done, is unlikely to solve the problem. Expecting pupils to transfer after just two years of secondary education is likely to be even more difficult that recruiting after three. Such a move would likely shorten Key Stage Three – a strategy frowned upon by Ofsted.
Read about the four schools will were bailed out in 2017/18 here.
*See here, scroll down.
UPDATE 9 February 2019: The DfE has informed me that the amount of £150k awarded to JCB Academy was a repayable loan not a grant (see here, scroll down). The headline, which previously said six UTCs had been bailed out in 2017/18) has been amended.
All accounts are from Companies House.