Missing figures cast doubt on accuracy of DfE FoI response re academy advances

Janet Downs's picture

Delta Education Trust, formerly The Quay School Academy Trust, agreed a ‘recovery plan’ of £480k with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in academic year 2016/17.  This was to be paid to the trust by 28 February 2018 (ie during financial year 2017/18) according to DET’s 2016/17 accounts*.

DET is a small multi-academy trust running The Quay School, an alternative provision school in Poole, and Coppice Spring School, a special school in Basingstoke.   It also has two special free schools in the pipeline.

The 2016/17 accounts** show DET was ‘in dispute’ with Hampshire County Council about the ‘funding model’ for Coppice Spring.  This had a significant affect on DET’s finances.  The trust had an ‘ongoing and increasing deficit’ which had ‘an unsustainable effect’ on cash flow.

It was against this background that ESFA provided its advance.  It was hoped Coppice Spring would be rebrokered by September 2018.

The transfer of Coppice Spring did not happen.  DET’s most recent accounts show DET hoped it would be transferred by the end of March or August 2019 at the latest.  In the meantime, the accounts say:

The ESFA provided the Trust with a £530,000 GAG advance payable over five years, which has improved the cash flow status of the Trust while a resolution was being sought.’

The ESFA advance would, you might expect, appear on the recovery plan for advances awarded to academy trusts prised from the Department for Education by Andrew Jolley**.

But it does not.  DET is not among the 82 trusts named in the DfE’s Freedom of Information response**.

The omission raises doubts about the accuracy of the DfE’s reply.  It prompts questions about how many more academy trust recovery plans are missing from the FoI response.

It’s essential that data released by the DfE, indeed any government department, is accurate.  Publishing incorrect data does nothing to uphold trust between the government and the public.



*Available from Companies House

**The Freedom of Information response was sent to Andrew Jolley after delays, refusals and an internal review lasting over a year.  Although the data was already out-of-date when it was published, it would be expected that DET’s recovery plan, repayable over five years, would have appeared. 

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Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 18/04/2019 - 14:33

Janet - I think you should refer this and your other concerns to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 18/04/2019 - 14:36

I wasn't the one who submitted the FoI request so I don't think I could be the one who informed ICO.  

Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 18/04/2019 - 14:44

I take your point, but when the DfE provides information in response to a FoI request the DfE is in effect publishing that information. Who calls government departments to account when they publish false information?

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 18/04/2019 - 15:03

It might be a clerical error.  More a cock up than a conspiracy.  Might be worth writing to my MP but I'll leave it until after Easter.

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