Ark reports £4m loss and relies on loans between its schools to cover deficits

But academy chain's acccounts say its financial outlook 'remains extremely robust' and reveal its plans to increase number of pupils on roll from 24,000 to 50,000

Will Hazell

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Ark Schools plans to double the number of pupils it teaches in its schools and is cross-subsidising seven of the academies in its network because they are in deficit, the trust's annual accounts reveal.

They also show that Ark's managing director, Lucy Heller, saw her overall remuneration increase compared to the previous year.

According to the accounts, the multi-academy trust finished the year with an operating loss of £4.1 million – an increase on the £800,000 loss the year before. It said this was the result of "increased investment" in schools and central project costs related to "opening new schools, developing school buildings and transferring existing schools into the network".

"These costs were expected expenses and Ark Schools' overall financial outlook remains extremely robust," the accounts add.

The accounts also show that seven of Ark's academies were in deficit at the end of the financial year and being cross-subsidised by other schools in the chain. The largest deficit was at Putney Academy in London, which reported a shortfall of nearly £1.3 million.

"Arrangements are in place to support these academies through this difficult financial period by way of intra-academy loans with careful and strict monitoring of the financial budget and performance," the accounts state. 

"All of the seven academies are currently below capacity but are growing their pupil rolls and there is every expectation that over the medium term they will each return to financial stability.”

The accounts for the year ended 31 August 2017 state that one of Ark's "main objectives" is to "grow capacity in the education system". "The Ark Schools network will, when it is at full capacity, provide an education for around 50,000 students," the document adds.

This would represent a more than doubling of the 24,000 pupils it currently teaches in 35 schools across Birmingham, Hastings, London and Portsmouth.

Ark does not set out in detail how this will be achieved, but says it aims to "continue to grow our network at a sustainable rate". 

Lucy Heller, Ark's managing director, saw her total remuneration including employer pension contributions rise to £209,679 from £205,630 the year before - an increase of about 2 per cent. 

It appears this rise was the result of increased pension contributions - a table showing the salary bands of Ark's highest paid employees, excluding pension contributions, shows one employee in the £190-200,000 band in 2016 but the highest paid individual in 2017 was in the £180-190,000 bracket.


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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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