DfE wants tougher scrutiny of LA school finances

Department to announce plans to bring financial reporting of maintained schools in line with academies

John Roberts

DfE plans to bring in more scrutiny of maintained school finances

The Department for Education is set to introduce plans to ensure information about maintained school finances are reported in the same way as academies.

It was revealed today that the government will consult on plans to address what it described as “the disparity between transparency of financial reporting in local authority schools and academies”.

Academy trusts are legally required to publish their annual financial accounts, which the department has argued means they face “higher levels of accountability and transparency than local authority schools”.

The DfE said today that ending this disparity will “strengthen local authority schools by bringing them in line with the accountability and transparency standards that academies are already required to meet”.

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Yesterday, academies minister Lord Agnew told the House of Lords that academy trusts' finances were scrutinised more often than maintained schools.

He said: “There is a full external audit carried out on academy trusts every year. That is unlike local authority schools, where the average frequency of audit is about every four years…scrutiny is far higher than for local authority schools.”

The DfE has also published an analysis today about the number of pupils in schools rated good and outstanding by Ofsted.

In this, it acknowledged that a 1.9 million increase in the number of children attending schools rated "good" or better since 2010 is partly down to the increase in pupil numbers overall.

The repeated use of this 1.9 million figure by government ministers has been questioned by the UK Statistics Authority whose chairman, Sir David Norgrove, said he had “serious concerns” about how the department presented figures on education.

In a letter to the department last year he said figures cited by the DfE “do not give a full picture”, and “should be set in the context of increasing pupil numbers, changes to the inspection framework and  some inspections that are now long in the past”.

The DfE’s new analysis published today says: “It is important to note that, while there has been an improvement over time in school quality, the increase in the number of pupils in "good" or "outstanding" schools has happened at the same time as pupil numbers have increased. 

“Over the period January 2010 to January 2019 there was an increase of over 700,000 in the number of children in state schools in England.” 

The analysis also reveals that the numbers of pupils in "good" or "outstanding" schools has fallen for the past two years, from 6,785,000 in August 2017 to 6,731,000 in March 2019.

However, the proportion of pupils attending "good" or "outstanding" schools is the same as it was in 2017 at 85 per cent.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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