For aficionados of government spending the past few days have brought two interesting announcements. Firstly, there is the revised arrangements for handling the accounts of academies and MATs by the DfE in England. The failure to get to grips with this information has led to some embarrassment for the DfE over the presentation of the full departmental accounts in recent years. Hopefully, this new arrangement will mean unqualified departmental accounts in the future. It may also help everyone to understand the spending patterns of this now significant part of the education landscape. The details of the new arrangements can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/academies-sector-annual-report-and-accounts
According to the government announcement:
The new report will:
- provide a more holistic report of the academies sector by aligning reporting of financial results with educational performance
- separate academies spending from that of the DfE and clearly show for the first time the resources academies receive and how they use them
- make it easier for Parliament, parents and taxpayers to scrutinise and test information about academies funding and spending
At the same time, DfE expects new arrangements to speed up validation checks by up to 2 months and enable accounts production much earlier than in previous years.
To support new reporting arrangements, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) has developed a new online accounts return for 2015 to 2016. EFA will write to all academy trusts in November with information about how to submit the accounts return.
Academy trusts must submit their accounts return by 31 January 2017.
The second announcement came with the publication of the Education and Training Statistics for the United Kingdom 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/education-and-training-statistics-for-the-uk-2016
This statistical release is a pale shadow of its former self and is mostly interesting for the tables it contains about qualifications across the system. However, tacked on to the end are two tables about expenditure on education across the UK.
The first years of the coalition reflect the austerity agenda instituted by the Labour government following the economic upheaval of 2008. Indeed, on one reading of the numbers, total spending on education fell throughout the period 2011-12 to 2015-16. However, this may due to the way student loan accounting changed between the Labour and coalition governments as the majority of the reduction was in the tertiary sector. As a result, education spending as a percentage of GDP fell from 5.3% to 4.4% during this period.
In cash terms, spending on both primary and secondary education was higher in 2015-16 than in 2011-12, by £1.6 billion in the primary sector and £2.7 billion in the secondary sector. The latter is surprising to the extent that pupil numbers were falling, but may be explained by the raising of the learning leaving age from 16 to 18 during this period and the resulting increase in participation feeding through to increased spending. Although these increases look large in cash terms they are not in reality so, spread as they are over a number of years. Indeed, they show spending probably flat or even declining in real terms per pupil. Interestingly, that isn’t a figure included in the data and there is no breakdown across the four home nations. This is despite education being a devolved activity.