A new report by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into academy accounts and performance has concluded that the governance of academy trusts must be strengthened.
The inquiry heard witnesses from Bright Tribe Trust and Durand Education Academy where a catalogue of high-profile failures have taken place. The PAC report concludes that such failures “have been costly to the taxpayer and damaging to children’s education with some academy trusts have misused public money through related-party transactions and paying excessive salaries.”
In 2017-18, the Department for Education provided funding of £20 billion to academy trusts and more than half of the pupil population are now educated in academy trusts. In order to ensure more rigorous oversight over the academies system, the PAC’s report made several recommendations including:
To improve transparency or accountability to parents and communities, the Academies Financial Handbook 2019 should require financial information to be made available at school level and there should be transparency about governance at all levels of the trust.
To ensure that parents are able to escalate concerns about academies, the DfE should ensure that all academy trusts have published complaints procedures, including a named individual.
Where there have been serious failings at academy trusts, the DfE should set out what sanctions it imposes, and explain how it plans to strengthen its sanctions to deter and punish those involved malpractice, including governors and trustees.
To ensure that the Education, Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) is sufficiently transparent about concerns on the financial management and governance of academy trusts, the results of investigations should made public within 2 months of completion.
You can read the full findings and recommendations from the PAC here. The report underlines why effective, accountable and ethical governance is essential to maintaining standards across all schools.