More than two-dozen academy trusts have refused to comply with government transparency rules about disclosing the salaries of directors and highly paid employees, TES can reveal.
One school, whose chair of trustees is Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, has had auditors formally qualify its accounts for six years in a row because it has not adhered to the regulations.
In total, 93 sets of academy accounts were given a qualified opinion between 2012-13 and 2014-15, meaning that auditors thought they did not give a “true and fair view” of the company’s affairs, had not been properly prepared in accordance with UK Generally Accepted Accounting Practice, or were not in accordance with the relevant regulations.
In the majority of cases (48 sets of accounts, from 25 different trusts), the concerns over the accounts centred on information given about the pay of the principal or chief executive, or other staff who were also trust directors or governors.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said: “If it’s the law, it should be complied with. There should not be any excuses, particularly around the spurious issue of commercial confidentiality.”
In 31 sets of accounts, the auditor’s concerns were connected to the value of land or buildings used by the academy. Five concerned information about pensions.
The Prospect Education (Technology) Trust – the sponsor of Ashcroft Technology Academy in Putney, which is named after Lord Ashcroft – is the only academy trust in the country with accounts that have been qualified for six years in succession over pay since 2011.
In 2013-14, auditors said accounts were “not compliant” with the Academies Accounts Direction because they did not reveal the pay of staff earning more than £80,000, in bands of £10,000.
They added: “The trustees have chosen to omit this information on the grounds of both confidentiality and business sensitivity.”
TES has contacted the school for comment.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We take breaches of the handbook seriously and respond proportionately according to the scale and nature of the issue. The vast majority of academy trusts’ accounts are unqualified.”
This is an edited article from the 17 February edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here