The Department for Education will consult on plans to bring the transparency of spending in local authority maintained schools in line with that of academies, it has been announced.

The government will shortly publish a consultation “to address the disparity between transparency of financial reporting in local authority schools and academies”, a spokesperson said.

Ministers have for some time been working on a plan to increase transparency in the LA-maintained sector. As previously revealed by Schools Week, academies minister Lord Agnew is working on an “accountability matrix” between council and academies to show the difference in approach.

The government says academies are more transparent because their sponsors have to publish detailed annual accounts, but opponents say the academies sector is less accountable to parents and communities.

It comes after Schools Week revealed last December how thousands of council schools have not had their finances independently scrutinised for more than five years. This includes three that were last audited by their local authority nearly 20 years ago.

In a statement today, the DfE said: “To further build on the government’s ambition to improve how all types of schools across the country are run and ensure transparency is consistent across the education system, the department will also shortly be publishing a new consultation to address the disparity between transparency of financial reporting in local authority schools and academies.

“This will aim to strengthen local authority schools by bringing them in line with the accountability and transparency standards that academies are already required to meet.”

Agnew told Schools Week last year that the “playing field” of transparency between council and academy schools “should be more level”.

He said the government was “considering how this might be best achieved without creating unnecessary burdens.

“It has always been the case that academy trusts have to be more transparent than maintained schools, and are subject to financial and governance-related scrutiny by the department and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.”