Category Archives: Academies News

Per pupil funding has fallen significantly, research reveals

Research has shown that today’s schools have, on average, been allocated less per pupil in real terms compared to previous years.

The figures, published by the School Cuts coalition, show that schools received an average of £4,630 per pupil in 2018/19 – £59 less than what they received in 2017/18.

Alarmingly, this is on average £369 less per pupil when compared to 2015/16.

The coalition, which features some of the UK’s leading school bodies, said schools are in “much greater difficulty than previously thought”.

It said that schools have to buy new textbooks, fund extra curricula activities, budget for building repairs and pay teacher and support staff pay rises even though they have significantly less cash than last year.

The figures show that schools require an additional £2.7 billion a year to restore per-pupil funding to its 2015/16 level.

Commenting on the report, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These stark figures show the dire reality of the funding crisis in our schools.

“What they don’t show is the human cost – the reduced opportunities for students as schools are forced to cut subjects and activities, increase class sizes and scale back learning and mental health support.”

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, added: “It is no wonder that schools are increasingly struggling to provide pupils with basic essentials and having to ask parents to fill the gap.”

At The Fish Partnership, we can help schools and academies to ensure that they are tax-efficient and financially fighting fit. To find out more about our sector-specific services, please contact us.

Academy trusts increasingly facing scrutiny over executive pay levels

In recent weeks, Eileen Milner, the Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), has penned damning letters to a number of academy trusts asking them to ‘justify’ executive pay.

The request applies to academies which pay at least one individual salary of £150,000 or more, or two or more salaries of between £100,000 and £150,000.

The letter follows a study which found that many of the 92 academy trusts with staff on £100,000 to £150,000 were classed as “small”.

Industry publication Schools Week, which published the figures after issuing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, found that 56 of the 92 academy trusts had fewer than 10 schools, and 11 had just one each.

In her correspondence, Ms Milner has clarified that academy trusts should have a “clear process” and “rationale” for the salaries set, including for all non-teaching staff posts.

“Whilst I recognise the excellent work carried out by many trusts to deliver high-quality education to children, trusts have a responsibility to ensure value for money and that salary and other remuneration 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,” the letter says.

Trustees have been asked to outline the role and responsibilities of the executive in question, as well as the level of challenge he or she has faced, for example, academically, financially or geographically.

In addition, the ESFA expects remuneration committees to show that it has scrutinised and approved all other benefits such as eligibility to participate in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, travel, accommodation, bonuses, notice periods and holiday entitlement.

Academies included in the latest round of assessment are required to respond by 20 July 2018.

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies face. We can help your academy with a wide variety of tax and financial matters. To find out more, please contact us.

Schools need to take advantage of more effective pupil premium strategies

Schools with the most effective pupil premium strategies can account for every pound spent, according to new research.

The National Governance Association (NGA) published the findings after polling more than 875 trustees and governors and studying 36 pupil premium strategies.

The report looks at how schools spend pupil premium funding, which is allocated to publically-funded institutions to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities.

Failure to target support where it is most needed ranked among the most common shortcomings, the NGA said.

For example, the majority of schools identify family life, low attendance and social and economic barriers as hurdles to success, but the most common strategies centre around academic learning, such as literacy and numeracy support.

The NGA recommends that governing boards take a more holistic approach to their pupil premium spending to better address “specific barriers to learning that hold back pupil premium students”.

It further found that the best schools “account for every pound spent” –rather than use “rounded numbers or vague estimations”.

It also found that just 71.6 per cent of respondents’ schools ring-fence their pupil premium. While it is not a legal requirement to ring-fence the pupil premium, the NGA found that those that don’t may use the pupil premium to subsidise spending commitments that would usually be funded by the school’s core budget.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA, said: “This report demonstrates how crucial the pupil premium is to the education of disadvantaged pupils, yet that it is hard for governing boards to consistently spend in a targeted manner.

“NGA suggests that the pupil premium should form part of the core school budget, which would provide more assurance about the future of the additional funding, while allowing schools more flexibility in using it.

“Schools should still be required to report on the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The gap is closing, but there is still much to do which is why the pupil premium remains hugely important.

“Governors and trustees are extremely committed, but do face challenges in effectively developing pupil premium strategies and therefore I hope these findings can accelerate their progress and that of their pupils.”

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!

New report published into academies’ leadership, strategy and growth

Leading academy schools differ in the ways they set out to deliver school improvements, with some opting to preserve the autonomy of individual schools, and others advocating consistent teaching and pedagogy.

The finding forms part of education charity Ambition School Leadership’s new report on leadership, vision, strategy, and the operations of multi-academy trusts (MATs).

It worked with more than 40 MAT CEOs and staff at 22 trusts, in a study which it described as the largest of its kind to date.

The charity looked at three primary questions: how does a MAT’s vision translate into its school improvement strategy, how are a MAT’s strategy and operations affected by growth, and what differentiates high and low performers.

It advises that its findings, seen below, are most vital for CEOs of small and medium-sized academy chains.

Key findings

  • MAT vision and mission statements differ in how clearly and specifically they describe the outcomes they want for their pupils and in how much emphasis they place on academic performance above other measures of success. Higher performing trusts appear more likely to explicitly cite standards and outcomes when defining their overall vision.
  • The key strategic choice for MATs is how to deliver school improvement. Two dominant approaches emerged from our research which reflect opposite ends of a strategic spectrum: preserving the autonomy of individual schools; or achieving consistent teaching and pedagogy across schools.
  • MAT leaders that choose a school improvement strategy of achieving consistent teaching and pedagogy will need to achieve alignment across their schools. They have to make a cultural choice about whether to achieve this through central direction or collaborative convergence. These approaches are not mutually exclusive; different approaches can be used in different areas of alignment.
  • MAT operating models face ‘break points’. This is a moment of non-incremental change where a MAT has to stop a previous operational approach and make a shift. MAT leaders have to look ahead to adapt their operating model to future context and needs.

At The Fish Partnership, we can help schools and academies to ensure that they are tax-efficient and financially fighting fit. To find out more about our sector-specific services, please contact us.

Disappointment over DfE’s failure to help academies get to grips with GDPR

Experts have called on the Department for Education (DfE) to do more to help schools comply with the new data protection act.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May, affecting all public and private sector institutions and how they handle data.

But Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he has been disappointed with the department’s input on this issue.

Likewise, Head Teacher Robin Bevan said he has been forced to pay £200 to hire a data consultant to train staff.

“It all seems quite small-scale until you do that calculation: with 20,000 schools at £200 a time, suddenly £4 million of public money has been spent simply because the DfE failed to publish a simple booklet of advice for schools,” he said.

A Government spokesperson said the DfE “is working with a number of schools and other sector representatives to develop further guidance and case studies to help schools prepare for the introduction of the upcoming legislation.”

So, what is the GDPR?

The key differences are seen in how personal data is stored and used. For example, schools are now forced to maintain records of ‘consent’ and students and other data subjects have been gifted the right to be ‘forgotten’.

All ‘personal’ data is protected by the GDPR. That includes online and offline identifiers, such as IP addresses and phone numbers. As a general rule of thumb, any information which fell within the scope of the DPA now falls within the scope of the GDPR.

The other key difference is in the penalties for organisations which fail to proactively protect student data.

Under the new regime, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can issue fines of up to four per cent of global turnover, or 20 million euros, whichever is higher.

Comparatively, current rules mean the ICO has the power to charge a maximum of £500,000.

From staff blunders to cyber-attacks, a potential data breach can happen at every level of your school. That’s why preparation and due-diligence will be your first line of defence in protecting your students’ data.

The GDPR is arguably one of the most significant changes in corporate law in the last decade, meaning that, where possible, academy leaders will need to put in place measures to protect student data before the May deadline.

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies face. We can help your academy with a wide variety of tax and financial matters. To find out more, please contact us.

The importance of professional clerks for academies

Schools without professional clerks are breaking governance laws, according to a new report.

The warning, published in industry publication Schools Week, says governors must be provided with a professional clerk to carry out their legal and governance duties.

The report cites the governance handbook, which states that a board must use a “professional clerk” to take minutes, organise the board and help navigate the law.

It further says that “the clerk should be the board’s governance professional”, and the board should be “assured” the person in place has suitable training and knowledge. The board should also “expect to pay an appropriate amount”.

Julia Millard, of the National Leaders of Governance, said personal assistants will not suffice and schools are likely to get into trouble for breaking the rules.

Likewise, David Carter, the National Schools Commissioner, said: “We all need to do more to recruit and develop more clerks”.

Some experts say the definition of an independent clerk is hard to come by, but the Government has recently developed a certificate in clerking of school and governing boards, which is now available through the National Governance Association (NGA).

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!

Eight out of 10 academies are ‘running a deficit,’ study finds

New research has shown that eight out of 10 academy schools are running a deficit.

The authors of the report suggested that some schools have just “two years” until they face the prospect of insolvency.

In total, 55 per cent of academies were deemed ‘in deficit’ before the effect of depreciation of assets, such as buildings, equipment and furniture, was taken into account.

This rose to 80 per cent when the accounts were adjusted to include depreciation, the report shows.

The document further found that staff make up 72 per cent of costs in these academies, as teachers continue to right for ‘real’ wage rises.

The figures were taken from genuine audited accounts of academy schools and represent a realistic cross-section of the academy school sector.

The report warns that schools are cutting back in many departments, such as by not upgrading outdated technology.

“The whole sector will be on the verge of insolvency if they have just two more years like this one,” said the authors.

“Accountants can work with governors to help them save every last penny possible, but without significant increases in public funding, this could become a full-blown crisis,” he added.

At The Fish Partnership, we can help schools and academies to ensure that they are tax-efficient and financially fighting fit. To find out more about our sector-specific services, please contact us.

DfE unveils new scheme to ‘get teachers back in the classroom’

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced a new scheme aiming to get teachers back into the classroom.

The programme is currently being piloted across regions in the South East of England and the West Midlands.

The Government plans to get teachers who have taken a career break back into the system by supporting professional development, such as providing funding for National Professional Qualifications.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb, said: “There are a record number of teachers in our classrooms – 15,500 more than in 2010 – but we want to build on that. Many of us will need to take time out from our careers at some point, and teaching is no different – but it can be hard to return to the classroom.

“We want to support teachers by giving them more options on how to return to the workplace. As well as helping to keep experienced and valued teachers working in our schools, this pilot will help make sure teaching remains attractive to the next generation and is regarded as a profession that is flexible to the demands of the modern world.”

The DfE said the re-recruitment of teachers will begin during the summer term.

The announcement follows a number of changes designed to ease the teacher recruitment crisis. Among these, the Government plans to strengthen Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and improve career progression.

It will also look at how the profession can be made more flexible, possibly through part-time roles.

At The Fish Partnership, we understand the day-to-day challenges schools and academies face. We can help your academy with a wide variety of tax and financial matters. To find out more, please contact us.

Academy sector suffers from significant gender pay gap, figures reveal

The spotlight has been shone on academy school bosses after recent figures revealed that primary multi-academy trusts (MATs) have the largest gender pay gap.

In April 2017, all organisations with 250 or more employees were given one year to publish their gender pay gap statistics.

According to industry publication Schools Week, women’s pay is lower across all MATs which have so far published figures. The data cited also shows that around two in five trusts pay male staff at least 25 per cent more than their female counterparts.

However, academies said the results are skewed by the “structure of the workforce” as a large proportion of women in primary schools work in lower-paid jobs.

Under reporting rules, academies must publish their median and mean gender pay gap, as well as the proportion of men and women in each quartile of the pay structure. The figures must also include bonuses.

Last year, the former Education secretary, Justine Greening, said the scheme will help women “reach their full potential”.

“I am proud that the UK is championing gender equality and now those employers that are leading the way will clearly stand out with these requirements,” she said.

According to figures published in 2015, women teachers are paid £37,100 on average, as opposed to £39,900 for men.

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!

Investigation reveals academies are failing to meet new legal duties

A number of multi-academy trusts (MATs) are not meeting new legal duties set out in January, according to a Schools Week investigation.

The industry publication found that just two out of 10 of the largest MATs are fully compliant with the “Baker clause,” which came into effect on 2 January 2018.

Under this legislation, all local authority-maintained schools and academies must give further education (FE) providers access to every pupil in years eight to 13 to explore approved technical qualifications and apprenticeships.

The law, proposed by Lord Kenneth Baker last year, also requires schools and academies to publish a policy statement outlining how providers can access them, as well as the rules for granting and refusing access.

In February last year, Lord Baker said the law was likely to be “met with great hostility in every school in the country”.

“I am going to write to [the academies minister] about it. It’s really a matter for the Government to chase them up,” he told Schools Week.

“We know that many schools will try to resist this, but it’s very important that it should be implemented more rigorously.”

In its investigation, Schools Week found that eight of the 10 major MATs it studied had failed to publish all information pertaining to its access policy and grants and refusal process.

Robert Halfon, chair of the parliamentary education committee, said: “I shall be writing to the minister to establish what efforts the Department for Education have made to ensure academies publish these policy statements, and what actions they intend to undertake to ensure academies up their game and comply with the law.”

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 our services for academies, please contact us.