Fifth of academies change hands because sponsor closes

New statistics show the proportion of academies moving trust has risen sevenfold in six years

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More than a fifth of academies changing hands last year did so because the sponsoring trust closed, new figures show.

The proportion of academies moving trust has also risen sevenfold in six years, according to Department for Education statistics.

In 2017-18, a sponsor closing was the cause of 22 out of 255 transfers – 8.6 per cent. In 2018-19, a sponsor closing was the reason behind 67 of the 307 academies which transferred – 21.8 per cent.

The year saw the failure of a number of high-profile academy trusts, including Wakefield City Academies Trust, the Education Fellowship Trust, Bright Tribe and Durand Academy.

In 2018-19 there were also 57 academies which transferred due to intervention and a further 183 where the transfer was initiated by the trust.

Of the 307 academies which moved trust in financial year 2018-19, the statistics show 80 were provided with grant funding and 227 did not receive any grant funding.


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The figures on academies moving trust show that in 2013-14, 0.5 per cent of academies (21 schools) moved trust but by 2018-19 this had risen to 3.6 per cent of academies.

Graph showing academy transfering as proportion of all academies over timeSource: DfE academy transfers and funding in England, July 2019

The statistics also show that the total grant funding provided for academy transfers from 2013-14 to 2018-19 is now more than £31 million.

Grant funding provided for academy transfers increased from £556,000 in 2013-14 to £8.4 million in 2016-17, but has since decreased to £7.6 million in 2017-18 and £6.5 million in 2018-19, the most recent year available.

The report points out that the grants from 2016-17 onwards are not comparable with earlier years due to differences in what it has been possible to include in the costs compiled.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “It is nothing short of a scandal that over £31 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent by the department shuffling 935 academy schools between one academy trust and another over the last five years. This is a huge sum that could have been better invested in our schools across England which are making staff redundant and sending begging letters home to parents because they simply don’t have the funding they need.

“The academy programme is an expensive shambles of a school policy. It is on its last legs and the government should put it out of its misery once and for all.”

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