Funding of academies and free schools

I was intending to keep the 200th post on this blog for a reflective piece looking back over the first 199 posts. As a result of a Statistical Release issued today by the DfE that blog can wait. The DfE published data about academies and free school and their expenditure during 2012-13 at

There is a major anomaly on the front page where some headline statistics are presented. Nowhere does it say that the figures used are derived only from those relating Single Academy Trust information and thus seemingly don’t include data from schools in Multi Academy Trusts. Yet that is the message in a footnote on the un-numbered table in the spreadsheet of detailed tables associated with the release where on the index page it says of the National Median data ‘National median income and expenditure for academies with certain characteristics’. If it is the case that the data only applies to schools in SATs then the headline page should be revised to make clear that the data does not cover all schools with the title academy or free school but only those not part of MATs as it indeed does on page 2: but who will read the small print?

I haven’t had time to work out whether or not the addition of MATs would alter the figures and I haven’t yet considered in detail whether the median figure is the best of the available measures of central tendency to use with this data. Representing the data in graph form using candlestick graphs that allowed the number and range of outliers – both low and high – might have provided a more interesting picture of the range of expenditure.

Comparing two years of data when the sector is growing probably isn’t helpful either as if the balance between schools in and around London and the rest of the country was changing that would skew the income side of the picture and might account for some or the entire decline in income between the two years.

One point that did stand out was the relatively high figures studio schools and University Technical Colleges spent in teaching staff costs. As these schools were mostly in their first year of existence, teaching costs in excess of £6,000 per pupil may be acceptable. Should they fail to recruit sufficient pupils in the future, and a previous post has expressed some anxiety about their numbers and attendance patterns, then whether this is money well spent may be a subject for discussion in the future. Certainly in comparison with the three City Technology Colleges their staffing costs look very high.

It is also interesting to note that although the median figure for primary academies expenditure in 2012-13 was above their income, presumably meaning that they had to draw on reserves, the secondary academies in the median group didn’t spend all their income and put away £48 per pupil into reserves. At this stage of their existence it is too early to tell whether that is both sufficient for depreciation and other unforeseen expenditure or too much. It would have been helpful to see this figure against the school reserves to identify what has happened since these schools changed status.

Finally, as academies and free schools use a different financial year to other state-funded schools it is difficult to make any comparisons between these and other schools.


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