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More schools going into deficit, top DfE official tells MPs

Permanent secretary Jonathan Slater says trend among maintained schools is likely to be followed by academies

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Permanent secretary Jonathan Slater says trend among maintained schools is likely to be followed by academies

The number of maintained schools going into deficit has increased over the past year, with academies set to see a similar trend, the top official at the Department for Education has told MPs.

Jonathan Slater, the permanent secretary at the DfE, this afternoon told the Commons Public Accounts Committee that the latest data for maintained schools for 2016-17 showed that the number with a surplus “has dropped a bit”.

He said 91 per cent were in surplus, while 9 per cent were in deficit.

He added: “I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a similar change in the academies as we get to the 2016-17 data in October because, of course, in the last two financial years schools have been faced with the challenge of having real-terms financial protection but not real-terms per pupil.”

He said that when the data for 2016-17 was available, it could turn out that 90 per cent of academies were in surplus and 10 per cent were in deficit.

Academy accounts inspected

MPs raised a number of high-profile cases of financial wrongdoing at academies.

Asked whether he was confident that the DfE catches all cases of fraud, Mr Slater said: “I can’t say that we don’t miss anything. We look at 500 schools in detail a year.”

He said he had not seen any evidence of an increase in misbehaviour in the academy sector, compared to the maintained sector.

It came as the Commons Public Accounts Committee took evidence about the DfE's first combined annual report and accounts for the academy sector in England, which was published in October, and covered the year up to 31 August 2016.

Mr Slater also told MPs that he would not be able to produce the second set of combined accounts for the sector before this year's summer recess.

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