School transfer costs

Once you move from a placed base system for the governance of schools, to one where a market model is the preferred choice, it is probably inevitable that each year schools will move between Multi- Academy Trusts for a variety of different reasons. Today, the DfE has published a note on their statistic pages about the number of such moves and the financial implications.

In the five years between 2013-14 and 2017-18, some 628 academies moved between MATs or MACs or moved from being single entities into a multi-school trust. Even though the overall number of academies managed as national schools has been increasing year by year, the percentage of academies moving has also been increasing. In 2013-14 the percentage of academies moving between or into Trusts was 0.5% of the overall total. By 2017-18, schools moving or joining Trusts accounted for 3.3% of the overall total of academies. It would have been helpful if the term financial year had been defined in the document. It must be assumed that it refers to the DfE’s financial year and not that of academies: they are not the same, and that has caused issues with the DfE’s accounts in the past.

In the days before the academy programme it is difficult to think of any local authority school being moved to another authority’s control, although whole authorities were broken up for a variety of reasons. Northamptonshire will be the next authority to see its remaining maintained schools split between two new unitary councils, after the financial problems that beset the county council earlier this yar. The DfE might like to publish data on the costs of such restructuring alongside these costs in the academy sector, just for comparison.

2017-18 was the first year that the number of schools receiving grant funding on moving between Trusts fell; from 60 schools the previous year to 49 in 2017-18. However, the savings were proportionally not as significant, as the bill over the two years such cash payments may be spread was only £370,000 less. Hopefully, there will be a larger decline in such expenditure in 2018-19.

Over the five year period, the cost to the system has been some £22 million. The DfE note explains what has been covered by this grant funding.

As the DfE explains, an academy can change trust arrangements only on the agreement of the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) acting on behalf of the Secretary of State (prior to 2014 decisions were taken by the Secretary of State).  It may apply to do so voluntarily – for example, a single academy may apply because it wants to benefit from the greater capacity (eg school improvement) from being part of a multi-academy trust; or the transfer may be initiated by the RSC because of concerns about the performance of the academy or the trust responsible for it.  The latter scenario is sometimes referred to as re-brokerage and is similar to intervention in local authority maintained schools, which sees them transformed into sponsored academies. Of course, before academies the local authority either had to solve the problems with the school or opt to close or amalgamate it with another school.

The largest sum identified in 2017-18 was for an academy in Stockport, where the cost identified was in excess of half a million pounds. Think what that cash might have done if used in other ways.



6 thoughts on “School transfer costs

    • Janet,

      I am sure that they are. Has the NAO had anything to say about this expenditure?

      Is see the DfE vacancy site had zero jobs yesterday. Wonder how much the BETA testing is costing to evaluate no a lot/


      • If you look at the Technical Info at the bottom of the data release you’ll see the what’s included and what’s not. In 2016/17 and 2017/18 the following were excluded:

        Deficit payments
         Diseconomies of scale
         Capital costs eg EIG, ICT hardware, building works
         Statutory redundancies

        Capital costs were supposed to have been included pre 2016/17 but I found one case where they weren’t. However, I was told this was agreed before rebrokerage and so wasn’t included. Deficit payments have always been excluded but these can be considerable and can amount to writing off deficits accumulated by the outgoing trust. Redundancy costs were included (at least in theory) pre 2016/17 but I found one case where they weren’t.

        I don’t think the NAO has looked at academy transfer costs. They weren’t published until last year and only then after lengthy campaigning by Schools Week and myself (including a court case). It’s certainly something NAO should look at.

      • Janet,

        Thanks. I don’t see why revenue deficits should be excluded nor why statutory redundancy payments are excluded. The basis should surely the be actual cash expended as a result of a decision to re-broker either into a MAT/MAC or between MAT/MACs.


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