£12.6m ‘emergency’ hand-outs for 22 schools

£12.6m ‘emergency’ hand-outs for 22 schools

Keeping school budgets in the black is not always easy – but some schools appear to be treated more leniently than others
Reporter Ann McGauran investigates the emergency funds handed to schools in need

Twenty two academies have been handed £12.6 million in emergency funding since 2011/12 and the vast majority does not need to be paid back, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

The Education Funding Agency’s response to the FOI request from Schools Week showed that just £331,000 –from 2013/14 and 2014/15 – has to be repaid.

Enterprise South Liverpool Academy was the biggest recipient of cash last year, receiving £915,000, of which £131,000 needs to be paid back. The EFA said the funding was to “support operational costs and non-statutory restructuring costs, enabling financial stability”.

St Aldhem’s Academy in Poole, Dorset also received £360,000 of non-repayable funding last academic year to contribute to its short-term running costs while a new sponsor was found, the EFA information stated. At present the school remains with St Aldhelm’s Academy Trust.

In October, an Ofsted inspection resulted in the school going into special measures. The inspection report said that “until recently, the governing body and school leaders at all levels have not demonstrated the capacity to raise standards”.

Those who got the largest tranches of the emergency cash in the past four years included Ormiston Academies Trust, which received £2.4 million over 2011/12 and 2012/13. Half of this went to Ormiston Victory Academy in Norfolk, whose head at the time was Dame Rachel De Souza – now chief executive of the Inspiration Trust.

The EFA said the money for Victory Academy was “to cover a range of infrastructure issues inherited from the predecessor school and to support the academy back to financial stability”.

Futures Academies, founded by Schools Minister Lord Nash (pictured), received £1 million for Pimlico Academy, one of three academies in Westminster that received nearly £2 million in non-repayable deficit funding between 2011 and 2013. Paddington Academy, whose sponsor is the United Learning Trust, and Westminster Academy, shared the remaining money.

The FOI response describes how all three Westminster-based academies received the cash boost “to enable financial stability during the transition to a reduced level of funding following historic errors”. Schools Week asked both Future Academies and Westminster City Council for more background on why the extra support was needed – but both declined to comment.

Manchester Enterprise Academy was also given £343,000 in non-repayable funding over three years between 2011 and 2014 to provide financial stability after steeply falling pupil rolls. An Ofsted inspection in March 2013 said the school “requires improvement”.

Eden Primary School, a Jewish free school in north London, received a total £44,800 in funding in 2013/14 and 2014/15. The EFA said this was to “support the school towards financial stability”.

The accounts show that though the school did not have financial problems in 2012/13, it received start-up grants and had significant funds available in August 2013.

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Schools Week asked the Department for Education to provide the criteria for deficit funding and what rules it used from 2013/14 to determine when funding must be repaid.

It said in a statement: “Deficit funding is decided on a case by case basis and is only provided in rare circumstances where schools are facing significant financial pressures.

“It is only provided once a robust and affordable recovery plan is in place. This allows schools to focus on providing a high quality education, preparing children for life in modern Britain.”

One senior school business manager questioned why some schools received non-repayable funding, while the DfE issued other schools with financial notices to improve.

She added: “I would hope that if you’re putting money into a school, you would see a consequential raising of standards. The government is saying that academies are successful and that they are not getting more money – but they are, aren’t they?”

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