Lobbying DfE for extra cash is no way to properly fund schools

Janet Downs's picture

Turner Schools, a small multi-academy trust (MAT) which runs four schools in Folkestone, is proud of the amount of money it’s raised through lobbying the Department for Education in the three years it’s been running. 

Professor Carl Lygo, chair of Turner Schools, said in a letter to parents earlier this year: 

'Jo Saxton [Turner Schools CEO) and her team have also worked extremely hard to bring in additional funding to Turner Schools... The additional funding Jo personally applied for amounts to over half a million pounds, and comes from a combination of government grants as well as charitable donations...’

Some of this money comes from grants from the government’s Multi Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund, Peter Read of Kent Independent Education Advice writes.  These grants are only available to MATs with a ‘proven record of working with underperforming schools to improve performance,’ Read explains. 

This is odd because Turner Schools doesn’t appear to have a proven record.  On the contrary, its running of Folkestone Academy in particular has caused concerns which a recent puff piece in a local council magazine failed to lessen. 

The MAT Development and Improvement Fund wasn’t the only source of DfE funding, however.  Other sources include £100k in transfer fees when it took over Martello Grove Academy and Morehall Academy from Lilac Sky Schools Trust in financial year 2016/17.  And the timescale* for trusts to repay longer term DfE advances shows Turner Schools owed £256,612. 

DfE grants and loans are available for particular reasons such as condition improvement or basic need capital funding.   These have to be applied for.  But there also appears to be additional funding which can be accessed by skilful negotiation.  Transparency is needed every time the DfE awards extra funding.    And MAT accounts should give full details of each DfE grant or loan and not just lump them together under ‘other DfE grants’ and ‘creditors’.


* Andrew Jolley unearthed the recovery plan in a much-delayed Freedom of Information response.  I am unable to link to the spreadsheet.  The figure of £256,612 was correct at the time the spreadsheet was compiled but its belated release means it is now out-of-date.

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