Commenting on the £1 billion overspend on the Academies Programme identified by the National Audit Office (NAO), the Publics Account Committee (PAC) said that £400 million had been taken from money intended for intervention in underperforming schools.
Henry Stewart in his evidence to the PAC pointed out that the best part of this overspend was spent not on underperforming schools but on converting schools that were already Good or Outstanding.
The PAC was shocked to discover a lack of financial accountability in academies. Academies in chains were not required to make public their expenditure at school level. PAC member, MP Richard Bacon (Con) described this lack of accountability as “mind-blowing” and commented that chains “could hide something by taking a little bit from several pots, and the parents would never know at the individual academy level.” (While the PAC report was at the press, the chain E-Act was issued with a “financial notice to improve” by the Education Funding Agency which discovered “weaknesses” in the reporting of its schools’ accounts.)
The PAC highlights dangers:
1 Governance, compliance and oversight arrangements for academies are inadequate and “remain vulnerable to failure”.
2 Forthcoming staff cuts at the Department for Education “may threaten effective oversight”.
3 Confusion about the “roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of different organisations across the changing schools system”.
4 Interventions in failing academies may be delayed because it is unclear about the roles played by local government, central government, the academy or academy trust in tackling the failure.
24 April 2013