Academies overspend by more than £170m

Figures also show increased spending by academies on supply staff

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Academies have overspent by more than £170m, the latest government figures have shown.

Numbers released today by the Department for Education show that academies’ expenditure exceeded their income by £171m.

Academies received a total income of £16.74bn in the year ending August 2015, but they spent £16.91bn. The overspend equates to 1 per cent of the academies’ income.

The government states that this does not mean the academies have fallen into debt, “as they may have reserve funds from which these costs were able to be met”.

The news is likely to raise questions about academy chains building up reserves, rather than spending the money on children’s education.

The figures show that expenditure on teaching staff as a proportion of total expenditure has fallen by 4.4 percentage points since 2011/12. At the same time, spending has increased on supply staff and support staff.

Overall, academies spent £8.27bn on teaching staff, but also £440m on supply staff. The figures reveal the growing demands that the teacher recruitment and retention shortage is having on school budgets.

Academies also spent £80.7m in 2014/15 on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) costs.

According to the data, 95.8 per cent of academies’ income came through direct grants, with the remainder generated by the academies themselves. Ark Schools was able to raise more than £11m on its own, more than any other academy trust. 

A DfE spokesperson said: “Our reforms mean we have stricter oversight and accountability over academy finances than in council-run schools – allowing us to continue to monitor school’s income and expenditure and take action where we have concerns. It is not unusual for there to be small variations in overall school expenditure from year to year, which is why academies have reserves from previous years.”

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1