Join a MAT or you won’t get capital funding, stand-alone academy told

Janet Downs's picture

Dorcan academy, a stand-alone academy in Swindon, needs money for capital works.  Dorcan’s latest accounts* say the academy received £761k in a successful CIF (Condition Improvement Fund) bid but there was ‘still a need to address urgent buildings maintenance and renovation’.

After Dorcan was told to join a multi-academy trust (MAT) in 2016 following an inadequate inspection grading, Excalibur Academies Trust was chosen as the preferred sponsor.  The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) promised Excalibur £2.8m in capital funding and a school improvement grant of £230k to take over the academy.

Dorcan has since been upgraded to requires improvement.  The academy’s leadership and the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils was judged good.   Dorcan’s trustees decided not to join Excalibur.

ESFA has told Dorcan it will not qualify for the £3m funding promised to Excalibur.  A letter seen by Schools Week from the area’s regional schools commissioner said that if Dorcan requested future financial support ‘ministers are likely to request that funding only be granted on condition that Dorcan join a multi-academy trust.’

Money for urgent school refurbishment and capital works should not be dependent on schools agreeing to join a MAT.  No school should be allowed to crumble if it doesn’t join a MAT.  It is unacceptable for the government to use money as a tool of enforcement.

EXTRA (added after publication).  Schools Week reports that the area's RSC told Dorcan the £3m offer was from funds “reserved to support the transfer of inadequate academies into new trusts”.  These would be academy rebrokerage fees which the DfE was so reluctant to publish.  Data re academy transfers is now published annually.  But the published amounts do not include money for capital works or statutory redundancies.  The £3m offered to Excalibur wouldn't have been disclosed in DfE data.

In any case, money offered to a MAT for capital expenditure at an academy it's due to take over should not be kept from the target academy if the latter decides not to join the MAT.  And any future request from the target academy shouldn't be contingent on joining a MAT.


EXCLUSIVE: DfE refuses to publish details of academies receiving ‘exceptional’ grants or loans

The Department for Educations has refused my Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to publish details of academy trusts receiving ‘exceptional’ grants or advances to stabilise their finances in financial year 2018/19.  I have asked for an internal review of the DfE’s handling of my FoI request on the grounds that a precedent exists.  The DfE has published details of exceptional grants and loans for financial years 2016/17 and 2017/18.  There is, therefore, no reason why details for financial year 2018/19 should remain hidden.


*year ending 31 August 2018 available from Companies House

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