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Academy spending

(38 Posts)
Mamie Sun 12-Jan-14 20:07:21

I despair.

JessM Sun 12-Jan-14 20:28:16

"As charities, academies are required to adhere to accounting standards. These require the full disclosure of related-party transactions and auditors check those disclosures. This government has ensured that academies and trusts are subject to tighter financial controls than ever before and to much more scrutiny than local authority schools."
Now I have been a Chair of Governors under an LA and know that we scrutinised spending diligently and even if we had not been up to the job, the LA audits were painstaking and extremely thorough. They even picked up on details like the vice chair had signed something while i was out of the country (that was supposed to be signed by the Chair).
I have also chaired a small charity and know that the Charity Commission do not have the resources to do, well anything, really. Our accounts were audited and presented to our members - and we had a very diligent Treasurer. The sheer number of charities and the lack of resources to scrutinise would suggest to me that charities can get away with a hell of a lot - probably anything unless someone "whistle blows". So not sure who is currently scrutinising the accounts of academies so diligently.
That being said it has been the case for several years that ordinary secondary schools can choose to buy services (such as HR advice or educational psychology services) wherever they wish and not obliged to "buy" any services from the LA.

JessM Sun 12-Jan-14 21:11:47

National Audit Office not happy with massive overspend on academy programme. Not surprised - I was there when we had our arms twisted up behind our back to become an academy because we were deemed to be "failing" - i.e. 1% below the target for exam results.

Lilygran Mon 13-Jan-14 11:47:48

What JessM says and the link from Mamie are very worrying and bear out my own experience. I have complained before about the lack of control and accountability that now exists in the schools system. And the lack of genuine public involvement.

Lilygran Mon 13-Jan-14 13:54:19

See what I mean?

JessM Mon 13-Jan-14 14:31:55

Lilygran this is an interesting link and I do think this represent a welcome review of the long list of obligations on governing bodies that have built up over a number of governments. Although there are a few things I wouldn't have ditched myself. It is all getting very messy though with much diminished LEAs trying to manage their areas with a large proportion of secondaries and some primaries out of their control completely (academies and free schools).
I suspect the schools that are suffering most are the not-so-well run primaries who will now have little support (if my previous LA anything to do by - bonfire of the advisors and assistant directors)
The LA is still responsible for making sure every child has a school place though, even thought they can't control the number of places available - which tends to be wasteful of public money.

Mishap Mon 13-Jan-14 14:33:23

You are not alone in despairing "Mamie." A local academy, to which two primary schools were attached sacked its exec head under speedy and undisclosed circumstances, and lost several of its board of governors, leaving chaos in its wake. Scrutinizing some of the budgets has been disturbing.

It is hugely worrying. I am on a governing body and your link "Lilygran" is very interesting indeed. Luckily we are all honest people committed to the cause of fostering the well-being of the school, but if we weren't, who is going to curb our activities? And how do we verify what we are told, in terms of data and spending? - it really is not easy, and relies on an element of trust. We have to trust the staff that they are producing accurate figures for us, in both areas.

It just gives me the creeps that the academy and free schools systems allow money to be syphoned off to private companies on spurious grounds that just stay within the letter of the rules - quite sickening.

Eloethan Mon 13-Jan-14 18:19:29

I doubt if there are the resources to closely monitor what is being spent in these academies, or where the money is going. I don't agree with academies or "free" schools and think they are a total waste of money.

Penstemmon Mon 13-Jan-14 18:38:56

LAs are still accountable but have little direct responsibility wheras the growing Academy group have little accountability (to the public) but growing access to funding!

Penstemmon Mon 13-Jan-14 18:40:57

School where I am governor (small 2f/e Infant) is researching academy possibilities. Not because we want to be an academy at all but we would rather choose our 'sponsor' than be given one! Lesser of two evils!

JessM Mon 13-Jan-14 18:55:24

Mishap you insist that there is an independent audit every year to "cover everyone's ass". If the head objects you tell them it is for their own protection. I once helped out at a disciplinary appeal where they head had been very lax and the bursar was the one that had been sacked. Academy budgets should cover this cost.
Penstemmon i know what that feels like. We met with several implausible "sponsors" . I would have thought that your best bet was to find a successful secondary school that has become an academy without a sponsor that would go into partnership with you.
I will PM you.

Mamie Wed 15-Jan-14 08:16:09

This is from the Anti-Academies alliance. It links to the huge numbers of problems which are emerging, as reported by the local press, Ofsted etc
What is interesting is how extensively these problems are reported in the local press and how few of those reports make it to the nationals. I wonder why?

Iam64 Wed 15-Jan-14 08:21:31

The national press does seem to miss a trick on so many issues that impact on all of us.

JessM Wed 15-Jan-14 09:26:13

That is a fantastic list mamie and got me up to date on the gossip regarding the sponsor I had dealings with. Some of these sponsors grew very rapidly going from a handful of schools to being the size of a not-very-small LEA in just a couple of years. But with their schools spread over a wide geographical area hmm They were of course under pressure from The Department to do so.

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 10:19:30

Another interesting Academy story today:

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 10:20:47

Sorry forgot to blue sad

JessM Tue 21-Jan-14 10:28:33

This has been going on for years and not just in academies. If you are a smallish school with around 100 in a year group then just one set of poor results will make the difference between being branded as a "failing school" or not. It is a product of setting such strict boundaries between failing and not failing e.g. 40% a-c grades in English and Maths. This kind of target setting does have some positive effects but it also has some negative ones.
Oxford Spires though does seem to have been shedding more than one or tow a year!

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 11:46:00

This is a bit more than losing one or two. In all the years I worked for LAs I never heard of anything like this.

"At Oak academy in Bournemouth – formerly Oakmead College of Technology – 188 pupils are recorded as having been at the college as 12- to 13-year-olds in 2009-10. By the time the year group took their GCSEs last summer, the number had fallen by 24% to 142, with the year group shrinking from 194 pupils to 142 during 2012-13 alone.

The academy explains that the drop is the result of a re-organisation, with some pupils now being educated within a new "studio school" on site, focusing on workplace preparation, performance and sports. Executive principal Annette Minard says: "The children have not gone; they are just working within a separate school within our federation."

JessM Tue 21-Jan-14 12:10:04

Yes it is just another way of "taking them off roll" before that final January date, to make the number stack. Have to say that an LA school would never get away with this level of fiddling the numbers - I'm not sure whether OFSTE would pick up on this when looking at attainment.
I was not trying to minimise - just saying that the reason is totally to do with stats and the pressure to "get them right"
You also get the "give the best teachers to the borderline groups" syndrome - you have to get those Cs at least in English and Maths and those are the classes where the reputation of the school rises or falls.

durhamjen Tue 21-Jan-14 12:16:02

An even better article in the Guardian today is an interview with Tim Hands who criticises both Gove and Wilshaw, head of Ofsted for changing things without consulting people. He says that many changes in the education system are due to just one person's experience of the system, rather than done through consensus.
Hands says that he never hears Gove talk about the less talented pupils. To be a good head or a good teacher you have got to understand what it is like to find work difficult.
I agree with that.

I always thought that kids with statements were excluded from the figures anyway. Is that not what the Oak Academy is doing? My grandson is in what his school calls the Nurture group, which is like a school within a school.

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 12:19:24

Yes that is true, though I gather it is likely to change to a measure of progress from KS2 rather than using the 5 A* to C figure.
Of course the point is that these stats are being used to try and prove that academies perform better than maintained schools. If you take out a large number of the lowest performing students you can do that.
This is an interesting article too.

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 12:25:07

Sorry the "yes that is true" was in reply to Jess.
No Jen these would not be statemented pupils; the percentage statemented is tiny. They would not be left out of the data set either; some of the brightest pupils in schools may have statements.

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 12:28:55

The national percentage of statemented pupils is 2.8. This has remained unchanged for five years. Oak Academy has lost 24% according to the article.

durhamjen Tue 21-Jan-14 12:48:15

If you have a look at the Oak Academy website, they have a separate school for 14-19 year olds who want to concentrate on the arts or on athletics. That's obviously where the 25% have gone.
It sounds like the middle school system, or the Leicestershire system.

Mamie Tue 21-Jan-14 13:07:22

They might be following a different vocational pathway in the 14 to 19 curriculum but they would still be on roll and their exam results would still count in the school's performance data. If the year group has shrunk by 24% that suggests something different.