Seven academy trusts owed £1m+ each at end of 201718: £5.2m by one defunct trust

Janet Downs's picture

Seven academy trusts owed more than £1m each by the end of March 2018, the Department for Education has revealed*.  Here are details of four of them.

The SchoolsCompany Trust owed £5.2m as a repayable advance.  It’s unclear whether ESFA will be able to recover this as SchoolsCompany has been stripped of its academies.  The loan is in addition to £947k non-recoverable bail out. 

Academies Enterprise Trust owed £2.5m.  This figure has now risen.  AET’s most recent accounts** say it has received over £4m in an ‘interest free’ loan from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for the trust’s ‘turnaround strategy’. It doesn’t have to be repaid until AET’s general reserves plus borrowing exceeds £15m.

This advance is in addition to an ‘exceptional grant’  of £773k relating to Plumberow Primary Academy, Hockley, awarded in financial year 2017/18. 

AET has been slapped with two DfE warning notices in just a few weeks, Schools Week reports.

Shrewsbury Academies Trust owed £1.8m.  Its most recent accounts** reveal ‘a significant deficit’.  It depends on ‘additional funding’ from ESFA.

A new Accounting Officer began work on 1 June2018 following the appointment of an Interim Executive Board in May.  He subsequently found financial irregularities had occurred before the IEB took overt including inappropriate use of charge cards, inadequate control of expense claims and concerns about ‘historic severance packages’.

The accounts** show the pay agreed for the former CEO and Accounting Office, G Pettengell, was between £85k and 90K with pension contributions between £20k and £25k for the academic year.  It’s not known if he received all of this as he resigned on 27 April 2018.

Ambitions Academies Trust owed £1,220,838 repayable in four instalments. AAT’s most recent accounts say one of its academies, St Aldhelm’s Academy, has ‘significant legacy issues’ dating back to December 2012 when it was a stand-alone academy run by St Aldhelm’s Academy Trust. 

The predecessor trust received a Financial Notice to Improve in March 2014.  This is now listed as ‘closed’.

AAT took on the challenge of running an inadequate academy with considerable problems.   ESFA granted AAT £2m to change the open plan layout which inspectors said hampered concentration and progress.  When Ofsted returned in 2016, inspectors judged St Adhelm’s to be good. 

The historic financial issues have contributed to St Aldhelm’s ‘current deficit of £3.6m, AAT accounts say.  £1.2m of this is a concessionary, interest-free loan. 

The remaining three trusts receiving more than £1m in advances, Leigh Academies Trust, Theale Green School Trust and Aspirations Academies Trust, will feature in an article to appear in the next few days.


*This is the second article discussing the Freedom of Information response sent to Andrew Jolley after delays, refusals and an internal review lasting over a year.  The delay means the data is already out-of-date.  The first article is here. 

**Year ending 31 August 2018, available from Companies House


CORRECTION 16 April 12.23.  The article and heading has been changed to make it clear the amounts represent what was owed at the end of the financial year 2017/18.  This may not reflect the total amount advanced to the named trusts.  This total amount lent may have been reduced by payments made in previous years.

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Celia Blair's picture
Sat, 13/04/2019 - 17:20

Looks like a money tree?
If I was working in an LEA school still I would be frothing at the mouth.
Not surprised it took a FoI query tp reveal this.
It's a shame the Guardian et al haven't published this information, but maybe they will?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 15/04/2019 - 13:01

An LA school can receive similar advances if it's likely to post a deficit.  It's essentially an accounting exercise because the school doesn't actually receive cash.  Repayment is made via deductions from the school's future grants and has to be wiped off within three years.

Academies can receive advances (even non-repayable grants) in 'exceptional circumstances' to stabilise finances.  What's surprising is the appearance of some high-profile academy trusts such as Harris in the list of trusts receiving advances bearing in mind they're supposed to be exceptional.

Academy trusts also don't have to repay the advances within three years unless the recovery agreement says so.  Repayment can be considerably longer.  For example, Aspirations Academies Trust has been given ten years to repay its loan of £1m.

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