Astrea academy trust calls in forensic auditors

The MAT says examination of its books after year of expansion has 'raised some question marks'

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The Astrea multi-academy trust has called in forensic auditors to examine its books after a year of expansion “raised some question marks” over its accounts.

Today is the deadline for academy trusts to publish their 2017-18 accounts on their websites.

However, Astrea said it is holding off publishing its accounts for the year ending 31 August 2018 while a more “detailed and technical reconciliation” can be carried out on its new schools.

Astrea has grown rapidly; its website now lists 25 primary and secondary schools, concentrated in South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

The schools it took on include some from the failed Wakefield City Academies Trust.

“The last financial year was one of significant growth for Astrea – we finished the year at a markedly different scale from where we started,” said a spokesperson for the trust.

“While being financially robust and sustainable the transactional complexities involved in this period of growth led us to scrutinise our balance sheet and our accounts management in far more detail than the standard required diligence for academy Trusts.

"This process has raised some question marks in the finalisation of the statutory accounts.

“We will not, therefore, be publishing our end of year accounts by 31 January as there is some detailed and technical reconciliation to be done on the acquired schools. So much so that we have requested that our auditors bring in their forensic team to carry out a more detailed review.

“Until this is complete, our Board felt it would be premature to sign off the accounts. Once this process has been completed we will publish our accounts in the usual way.”

Figures from the Department of Education showed the number of MATs in deficit grew last year, bringing their total shortfall to £65 million.

England’s biggest academy trust, Academies Enterprise Trust, revealed today it has just over half the amount of reserves it deems necessary for “stability and sustainability”.

The country’s largest primary MAT also took the unusual decision to centrally pool its schools cash last year after more of them fell into the red.

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