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English academies hit with #163;20k bills

Private services company Capita stands to earn tens of millions of pounds from the taxpayer from the Coalition's expansion of the academy programme in England, it has been claimed.

Headteachers overseeing the transfer of their schools to academies are being slapped with bills - often totalling more than #163;20,000 - to change the licence on their vital school information management systems (Sims).

Capita's systems cover all parts of a school's administration from registration and dinner money to lesson structures and admissions, and are used by more than 20,000 schools across England - nearly 80 per cent of the market.

Nearly 400 schools have already taken up the Government's offer to become an academy and it is expected that thousands more will do so as education secretary Michael Gove realises his vision of academies becoming "the norm".

Whitehall's Department for Education provides #163;25,000 to schools converting to academy status, but many heads say the cash is being used up on the re-licensing fee for their Sims. Secondaries remaining in local authority control secondary can expect to pay the council #163;3,000-#163;4,000 for their Sims.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of education union the ATL, said schools considering converting to academy status should take note: "It just shows that if you want to play with big business you will get burnt," she said.

"This should act as a warning to schools that academy status will not give you more money in the long run."

Capita Children's Services, which runs Sims, said if a school holds its own licence, it will only be charged a #163;200 administration fee when converting to an academy. But if a local authority owned the licence, the cost of a new licence must be passed to academy.

"Due to Capita Children's Services strong standing in the school marketplace it would be seen as using its position unfairly against its competitors if it did not pass these costs on to its customers."

A DfE spokesperson said: "We are eager to settle the matter as soon as possible to ensure that academies are not financially disadvantaged over maintained schools."

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