Category Archives: Academies News

Majority of UK schools likely to convert to academies in coming years, study finds

Around half of non-academy schools are likely to convert between now and 2022, a new report has revealed – suggesting that the Government’s plans to convert all schools may soon be realised.

The Academies Show, which published the survey, found that just a third of school leaders thought it was “not very likely” their school would convert by 2022.

Previously, the Department for Education (DfE) had said that all non-academy schools would need to convert by 2022. But later, it abandoned this approach after the number of schools converting fell out of pace with targets.

It then confirmed that schools rated “good” or “outstanding” could stay on under their local authority umbrella.

However, The Academies Show research has now found that a quarter of school leaders believe they are “very likely” to join or form a multi-academy trust (MAT) by 2022, while a further 38 per cent said converting by this time was “fairly likely”.

The report also found that just under two thirds (63 per cent) of schools to have recently converted had an overall positive experience.

In fact, just 12 per cent described the experience as negative.

Lucy McPhail, director of the Academies Show, said: “Our research has highlighted the key concerns that many maintained schools have with becoming an academy.”

The latest figures show that 71 per cent of state-funded secondary schools and a quarter (26 per cent) of primary schools have academy status.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson, said: “As this survey shows, the majority of schools that have converted to become academies say it had a positive impact.

“By working in partnership with each other, schools can benefit from sharing staff, best practice and curriculum expertise. High-quality sponsors can also raise standards in underperforming schools, bringing fresh vision, strong leadership and clear accountability.”

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies face. We can advise on the academy conversion process, and our expert team can also help you to assess your finances and achieve your financial targets. To find out more about the services we can offer to academies, please contact us.

The Autumn Budget: What does it mean for schools and academies?

On 22 November, the Chancellor Philip Hammond took to the podium to announce the future – for the next year at least – of education and schools.

However, it would be fair to say that the majority of his statements were overshadowed by surprising news that Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) would be abolished for first-time buyers.

Still, there is a lot to learn from this year’s Autumn Budget, and here are some of the things that schools and academies might have missed:

Maths

The Budget invests an additional £406 million into maths and technical education, helping students develop essential skills needed to succeed in the new economy.

”Knowledge of maths is key to the high-tech, cutting-edge jobs in our digital economy. But it is also useful in less glamorous roles. Such as frontline politics,” said the Chancellor.

Around £27 million will be used to expand the Teaching for Mastery maths programme in a further 3,000 schools. Schools and colleges will also be rewarded £600 for every pupil who decides to take Maths or Further Maths A Levels. Meanwhile, a further £40 million will be used to train maths teachers.

VAT

The Government will maintain the VAT threshold at its current level of £85,000 for two years from April 2018.

Computer science

The Government will “ensure” that every secondary school has a fully qualified computer science GCSE teacher. It will achieve this by committing £84 million to upskill 8,000 computer science teachers by the end of this Parliament.

The Government will also work with the sector to set up a new National Centre for Computing to produce training material and support schools, it added.

Teacher development premium

The Government will invest £42 million to pilot a development premium programme. “This will test the impact of a £1,000 budget for high-quality professional development for teachers working in areas that have fallen behind,” the Budget document reads.

It adds that this will support the Government’s ambition to address regional productivity disparities through reducing the regional skills gap.

If you have concerns about your school or academy’s finances or reporting obligations, The Fish Partnership is here to help. We can help to ensure that you are tax-efficient and financially fighting fit. To find out more about our sector-specific services, please contact us.

Single academy trusts pressured to ‘justify’ salaries of executives

Single academy trusts have been told they must immediately ‘justify’ the salaries of any executives earning more than £150,000 each year.

In a letter addressed to trustees, Eileen Milner, Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, requests further information on the school’s “rationale” for setting these levels of pay.

The request will only relate to salaries submitted in 2015/16 accounts.

The letter, dated 04 December 2017, reads: “You will be aware that there has been considerable scrutiny over taxpayer-funded executive salaries in recent months.

“Whilst I recognise the excellent work that is carried out in many trusts to deliver high quality education to children, trusts have a responsibility to ensure value for money and that salary payments are transparent, proportionate, reasonable and justifiable.

“The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has a responsibility to ensure that best practice is exemplified in the system to ensure this accountability.”

Academies must outline the role and responsibilities of the executive, as well as the level of challenge he or she has faced – for example, educationally, financially, or geographically.

The letter stated that initial responses needed to be returned by 15 December 2017 – giving academies less than two weeks from the date they received the letter.

The Agency also issued a second letter relating to executive pay for trusts at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.

At the beginning of December, it was revealed that Ex-Bath Spa University Vice-Chancellor Christina Slade was paid more than £800,000 in her final year, over half of which was “compensation for loss of office”.

The news sparked vicious debate about how tax-funded institutions should pay their top staff.

To find out more about the specialist tax and accountancy services The Fish Partnership can provide to schools and academies, speak to our team today!           

National Institute of Education set up to assist schools with apprenticeship levy

A new National Institute of Education (NIE) is being set up to help academies make full use of the apprenticeship levy.

In October, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealed that around a quarter of apprenticeship levy-paying organisations still do not know how the associated benefits can be claimed.

Likewise in the case of schools, many academies which have paid money into the scheme are complaining about the lack of available courses.

The new NIE will offer a teaching apprenticeship, a “master teacher” degree apprenticeship, and a master’s degree apprenticeship for senior leaders. It will also provide a two-year PGCE with qualified teacher status for those just entering the profession.

Justine Greening has also since confirmed that a separate teaching apprenticeship will be launched next year.

What is the apprenticeship levy?

The levy is designed to fund the Government’s pledge to create three million apprenticeships by 2020.

Employers with a wage bill of £3 million or more each year are required to pay the levy – charged at 0.5 per cent of their annual pay bill.

All organisations have an apprenticeship levy allowance of £15,000 each year, meaning they only pay the levy on any amount over £3 million.

Organisations which contribute towards the fund can reclaim Government vouchers for apprenticeships. Smaller companies can still claim apprentice funding.

But over half (56 per cent) of levy-paying businesses do not expect to recover much of their payment, while just 36 per cent believe they will recover all or more of it, according to the BCC.

Dave Cobb, CEO of Oceanova which is setting up NIE in conjunction with the University of Buckingham, said it was a race to get schools benefiting from the scheme.

“Barclays are paying £30 million into this levy,” he said.

“It would be a crime if the banks are well organised and put thousands of people onto management development programmes, and schools miss out on that money.

“There’s a £3 billion national pot, a £105 million contribution from the schools in this calendar year from April, and we’re really worried that schools that haven’t got the time to organise around this are going to miss the opportunity to actually spend their levy.”

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies face. We can advise on the apprenticeship levy, help you to assess your finances and achieve your financial targets. To find out more about the services we can offer to academies, please contact us.

Academy land and building valuations postponed until January

The Government has postponed planned academy land and building valuations until January – amid reports that schools face spending thousands on their own surveys to meet accounting requirements.

According to Schools Week, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA) was due to issue “free” valuations for new academies opened between September 2016 and August 2017.

Schools must have valuations carried out by law to include in their annual accounts which must be filed by 31 December at the latest.

But now the department has confirmed that it won’t be carrying out valuations until at least January – leaving schools facing the prospect of spending thousands on private valuations.

Effectively, schools are being asked to spend money on valuations which will be carried out for free just a few months later.

In an update issued to schools last week, the ESFA said: “We’ve adjusted the timetable for issuing land and buildings valuations because the valuation date has changed from March 31 to August 31 each year to match the sector annual report and accounts, which has 31 August as the reporting year end.”

The move has, understandably, left some academies furious.

Micon Metcalfe, the finance director at Dunraven Academy in London and fellow of the National Association of School Business Managers, said: “New academies, unless they have a valuation already, might have been banking on the ESFA’s valuation in time to include in their annual report and financial statements.

“We had the ESFA desk-based survey, but it missed half our site and the rest was a building site. We used our insurance valuations and the build cost of our new buildings after consultation with our auditor.”

The “lateness of the announcement” has caused most of the disruption, as it is happening “just when trust audit season is in full swing”, she added.

If you have concerns about your school or academy’s finances or reporting obligations, The Fish Partnership is here to help. We can help to ensure that you are tax-efficient and financially fighting fit. To find out more about our sector-specific services, please contact us.

New teacher training apprenticeship announced following levy woes

From September next year, a new postgraduate teaching apprenticeship will be offered to “top graduates” as an alternative route into the teaching profession.

The Education Secretary Justine Greening said the new apprenticeship will provide hands-on experience for new recruits and a chance to learn from already accomplished teachers during training.

It will also offer the incentive of potential employment as a qualified teacher at the end of the apprenticeship course, Ms Greening said.

Trainee teachers on the new course will be guaranteed an unqualified teacher’s salary – which currently starts at £16,626 – instead of the apprentice minimum wage.

This is in line with other pathways into teaching, such as School Direct and Teach First.

The announcement of the scheme follows warnings earlier this month that schools and academies were unable to take full advantage of the Apprenticeship Levy – a new tax on organisations to pay for millions of apprenticeships – as no such schemes were available.

Now, schools that contribute towards the levy (those who pay a wage bill of £3 million or more) can claim vouchers to pay for apprenticeships.

Schools who are not eligible for the apprenticeship levy, or who require additional funds, will receive Government funding to cover up to 90 per cent of training costs, the DfE added.

Education Secretary, Justine Greening, said: “Getting the best people to train as teachers and into our classrooms is a crucial part of giving every child the high quality education they deserve. This new route will provide another pathway for talented graduates into a profession that will give them the chance to change lives for the better on a daily basis.”

Executive Director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), James Noble Rogers, said: “We are pleased that the new apprenticeship will be delivered in partnership between schools and accredited Initial Teacher Training providers and will be subject to the same regulatory framework as other ITT courses.

“In the future we would like to see the apprenticeship developed to reflect any changes to Qualified Teacher Status and the rationalisation of some of the rules applying to apprenticeships generally which we don’t think necessarily translate well for ITT.”

To find out more about the specialist tax and accountancy services The Fish Partnership can provide to schools and academies, speak to our team today!

£140 million available under second phase of school funding initiative

This month, applications are open for the second round of the Strategic School Improvement Fund, with more than £140 million available for academies and council-run schools.

The fund is a grant to support first, infant, primary, secondary, middle, all-through, alternative provision, and special academies and maintained schools, as well as pupil referral units.

It can be used to increase resources at schools most in need to improve performance and pupil attainment, or to deliver more good school places.

In order to qualify, applications must support a minimum of four schools, of which at least 70 per cent meet one or more of the eligibility criteria. Eligible schools will be those which are currently underperforming, as well as schools at risk of doing so.

Academy conversion activities will not be eligible in this fund. They are expected to be paid for through other funds such as the sponsored academies pre-opening grant or the MAT development and improvement fund.

For more information, visit the gov.uk website here.

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies can face in terms of funding, finance and more. We can assist you with accessing funding and help you to assess your finances and achieve your financial targets. To find out more about the services we can offer to academies, please contact us.

Fears that funding isn’t enough to cover costs of inflation

Long-awaited minimum per-pupil funding figures were released by the Department for Education (DfE) in September, but school leaders have called for extra funding to cope with the rising costs of inflation.

According to the figures, primary schools will receive at least £3,500 for every pupil from 2019/20, while secondary schools will receive at least £4,800 per pupil.

In addition, every school in England will get a lump sum of £110,000 to help with fixed costs. There is also a £26 million fund to help “rural and isolated” schools overcome “unique challenges”.

Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, said the new formula replaces the previous “outdated” funding system, which saw children receive “very different amounts” purely because of where they were growing up.

“That was unacceptable and we have now made school funding fairer between schools for the first time in decades,” she said.

However, school leaders have called on Ms Greening to provide further investment, in addition to the £1.3 billion more announced at the start of the year, to beat inflation and the spiralling cost of imported goods.

Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The £1.3 billion comes with the caveat that it is one-off funding split over two years, recycled from elsewhere in the education budget.

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that all this additional funding does is to reduce the real terms cut from 6.5 per cent to 4.6 per cent between 2015 and 2019.”

If you have concerns about your school or academy’s finances or reporting obligations, The Fish Partnership is here to help. We can help to ensure that you are tax-efficient and financially fighting fit. To find out more about our sector-specific services, please contact us.

Labour Party to take ‘a different approach’ to policies for academies

The Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, has signalled that the Labour Party is to take a different approach to its policies over academies.

In an interview with Schools Week, Ms Rayner said the party needed to “move on” from the debate over the merits of schools outside local authority control and that it would instead be pushing for greater accountability.

Previously Labour had made its opposition to academisation clear, at one time suggesting that it could take steps to bring institutions back under council control – a stance which concerned many head teachers.

However, with two in three secondary schools having already converted to academies and a quarter of all primary schools, many had predicted that the Opposition would likely revisit this position.

The Shadow Secretary of State, who was among the keynote speakers at Labour’s recent Autumn Conference, said she would not be “fixated” on the idea of local authorities being the solution to all the challenges facing the education sector.

“I’m not going backwards – I’m going forwards,” said Ms Rayner. “Most parents, including me, are interested in a good school that their kids can go to. They don’t care what it’s called, quite frankly.”

The frontbencher has also said that one of her priorities in the months ahead would be to refine policies set out in Labour’s General Election manifesto earlier this year, which promised increasing spending on schools and the creation of a National Education Service.

“We had literally a couple of weeks to pull all the things together that we’d been working on for some time,” she said.

“Is the National Education Service fully envisaged with all the fine minutiae? No. There’s always room for improvement,” she added.

To find out more about the specialist tax and accountancy services The Fish Partnership can provide to schools and academies, speak to our team today!

DfE publishes teacher and school leadership pay rates for 2017/18

The new teacher and school leadership pay rates for 2017/18 have been released by the Department for Education (DfE).

Academies are not required to follow these pay scales, as they are permitted to set their own wages. However, they do provide useful insight, and many academies choose to base their pay policies on them regardless.

This year the Government confirmed it would continue public sector salary freezes, which see teachers’ pay rise by a maximum of just one per cent per year.

Justine Greening accepted the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body to “raise by one per cent the minimum and maximum of all pay ranges and allowances in the national pay framework, except the main scale where the minimum and maximum of the main pay range will rise by two per cent”.

Chris Keates, general secretary of The Teachers’ Union NASUWT, said: “The pay review body has rightly reminded schools that pupil achievements are dependent on schools maintaining a strong cadre of teachers and that this will require school leaders and governing bodies to make best use of their people and give the necessary priority to teachers’ pay within their schools’ budgets.

“However, the evidence confirms that, to date, teachers have not had any protection as a result of the Government’s one per cent pay cap, and increasing numbers of teachers are reporting real financial hardship for the first time in decades.”

The pay scales for teachers can be found here.

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies can face in terms of pay, funding and finance. We can assist you with the preparation of accounts and help you to assess your finances and achieve your financial targets. To find out more about the services we can offer to academies, please contact us.