ASCL responds to PAC report on academy trust finances

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the report of the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) on the finances of academy trusts.
“We agree with the PAC’s recommendations that the Department for Education should provide better information about the variation in the financial health of academies, the criteria it uses to support the financial recovery of trusts, and instances of failed leadership. We also agree that the DfE should be clear about its plans for full academisation in its forthcoming schools white paper. These are all important steps in a robust system.
“However, we would emphasise that the vast majority of academy trusts are financially very well run and fully comply with the vast number of requirements which already exist in terms of reporting financial information. Furthermore, trustees think very carefully about the appropriate level of pay for trust leaders and recognise the importance of being able to demonstrate value for money against rigorous performance targets.
“We understand the concern raised by the PAC about the need for greater transparency over the financial information that multi-academy trusts are required to publish for each school in their trust. But it is also important that any further accounting requirements are proportionate and not unduly excessive in terms of time and bureaucracy.

“The PAC is right to voice concerns about the condition of the school estate and the continuing threat posed by asbestos in school buildings. Much of the school estate is relatively old and is in urgent need of significant remedial work which includes the phased removal of asbestos. The funding made available by the government for capital spending is nowhere near enough, and the longer this is not addressed the greater the problems will become. Children, young people, and the staff who teach and support them deserve better.”