Schools Week has compiled a list of eight ‘need to know findings’ from the UK government’s new report on academies. The government’s policies on academies have been hotly debated in government and amongst school heads and union leaders. Take a look at eight key points below:
More than 100 academy chiefs paid over £150,000
The report has collated salaries paid to academy trustees – which includes principals and chief executives.
It shows that more than 111 trustees – which can include chief executives and principals – were paid more than £150,000 a year (the payment includes salary and bonuses, but excludes pension costs).
Another 13 school staff (not trustees) were also paid over £150,000.
The disclosure is likely to prove contentious, with academy chief executive pay a controversial topic. Schools Week revealed last year how some chiefs received soaring rises while teachers’ pay was capped at 1 per cent.
Two academy staff received large exit pay deals
The report reveals the total number of exit packages paid to staff in academies, with two receiving pay-offs of between £150,000 to £200,000.
Both instances weren’t redundancies, and were classed as “agreed departures.” There is also another pay-off of more than £100,000 detailed. There were 4,689 in total (nearly 2,000 of which were compulsory redundancies) which amounted to £52 million.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) has strict rules on handing out such deals. Trusts have to put together a business case for every pay-out, which the agency can demand to see so it can check value for money.
Trusts must also get approval from the secretary of state for any compensation deals that are more than £50,000.
Auditors are highlighting more concerns about academy accounts
The number of auditor concerns, such as a lack of information or the ongoing viability of the trust, crept up from 36 in 2013-14, to 30 last year.
There has also been a rise in the number of academies from 2,691, to 2,905, which somewhat cancels the increase out. The government explains this increase by saying auditors have taken a more rigorous approach to drawing trustees’ attention to issues of financial challenge.
Academies spent more than £80m in one year repaying private firms
The report shows academies paid out £81 million in service charges on private financing deals last year alone.
The report also reveals the total costs the state owes private firms that built schools under private financing deals now stands at £723 million.
The 50 related-party transactions over £250k
There were 52 payments of more than £250,000 classed as “related-party transactions” – payments between a trust and a related person or company related to such person.
However, the academies report also reveals there a total of 46 payments of more than £250,000 to a trust from a related party.
Increased government transparency over academies expense
Next year’s sector report will include many more details about academies, such as:
Commentary on any reported frauds in the sector; the names of trustees – including academy chiefs – paid over £150,000; the amount trusts spent on consultancy fees; the amount the sector spend paying staff off-payroll (which is frowned upon by the Treasury).
Head of education committee demands further improvement
Education committee chair Neil Carmichael, in a letter to the department published today, said the department “must do more to demonstrate its commitment to accountability of around £18 billion of public money.”
He wants the sector report to include details of large donations to trusts, including who is making them. He also wants further details about PFI commitments and more details about losses and special payments made by trusts.
“Overall, we remain to be convinced that the revised arrangements will provide an adequate level of transparency and accountability of the department’s expenditure on academies.”
Department officials will be called before the committee again in the New Year to report on their progress.
DfE: There’s still more to come
Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary to the Department for Education, has written a letter to Carmichael stating that this week’s report did not include a full set of information and there are lots of accounting adjustments they are working through before next year’s report, which he plans to publish by June 30th, 2017.
“We are currently undertaking some more detailed planning work, working with all those involved, including academy representative bodies, the Treasury and the National Audit Office.”
A DfE spokesperson added:
“All academies operate under a strict system of financial oversight and accountability – more robust than in council-run schools. Where issues are identified we can and do take direct action.”