There has been a succession of high-profile academy failures that have been costly to the taxpayer and damaging to children’s education. Some academy trusts have misused public money through related-party transactions and paying excessive salaries. At Durand Academy Trust and Bright Tribe Trust, there were serious failures of governance and oversight. This cannot be allowed to happen again – governance at academy trusts needs to be stronger and the Department for Education’s (the Department’s) oversight and intervention needs to be more rigorous. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (the ESFA) is taking steps to control executive pay and related party transactions, but these actions are as yet unproven and in isolation will not prevent abuse. We expect to return to these issues in future.
Academy trusts are now responsible for educating nearly half of all children in state-funded schools in England, but they are not sufficiently transparent or accountable to parents and local communities. Parents and local people have to fight to obtain even basic information about their children’s schools and academy trusts do not do enough to communicate and explain decisions that affect the schools they are responsible for and how they are spending public money. The accounts of individual academy trusts, and for the sector as a whole, are not yet as useful and accessible to users as they should be.
Our inquiry also reiterates concerns about the school sector as a whole which we raised nearly two years ago and which have not been addressed. First, despite the funding pressures the sector is facing, neither Ofsted nor the ESFA is assessing the impact of these pressures on the quality of education and the outcomes schools achieve. Second, almost a quarter of schools have still not provided the information that the Department needs to understand fully the extent of asbestos in school buildings.
Published: 23 January 2018