Steiner school handed finance warning after failing to submit accounts on time

A Steiner academy has received a financial notice to improve after failing to submit its audited accounts on time.

Steiner Academy Frome has been formally warned to improve financial management, control and governance by the Department for Education after it missed the December 31 deadline to submit its accounts.

Issuing a finance warning for solely failing to submit accounts on time seems highly unusual.

The DfE usually just ‘names and shames’ such trusts. In November, 88 trusts were named by the government for failing to file two or more returns to the government on time last year.

The Steiner school, which follows the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, has been placed in special measures by Ofsted and given a funding termination warning by the DfE in the last two months.

The government warning now urges it to consider joining a multi-academy trust to “secure the academy’s future”. It stated that failing to submit accounts on time breached funding rules.

The DfE’s academies director Mike Pettifer, in a letter published today, added the warning “reflects the weak financial position of the trust and continued concerns on governance and oversight of financial management by the board.”

The trust has been told it must review its governance arrangements and the roles of current trustees “to ensure that the pattern of repeated financial mismanagement is addressed” and must hold more regular board meetings.

As well as submitting its accounts, Steiner Academy Frome must also work with a schools resource management advisor to “identify cost-efficiencies”.

Steiner Academy Frome’s Ofsted report, published in January, warned that leaders had “failed to provide pupils with a safe and effective education”.

In February, Steiner Academy Frome and Steiner Academy Bristol were issued with termination warning notices, meaning they could be transferred to new trusts unless improvements are made. Steiner Academy Exeter, which was placed in special measures in October, received a “minded to terminate” notice from the government in December.

Three of the four state-funded Steiner schools in England are now rated ‘inadequate’, prompting education secretary Damian Hinds to grant Ofsted powers to inspect all Steiner schools in England, including 21 private schools.

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman has also demanded an investigation into whether the Steiner philosophy – which advocates a holistic, creative approach to education – is contributing to the failures, but Hinds has not yet authorised this.

Steiner Academy Frome was approached for comment.