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January 19th, 2012 at 11:54 am

Free School and Academies – “funding is ‘flawed’, London Councils warns”

in: Article

The Government’s funding of academies and free schools is flawed and lacks transparency, say the capital’s local councils.

London Councils, the organisation which represents the 33 local authorities in the capital, today warns that the Government’s proposals to calculate the Academies Funding Transfer for 2011-12 and 2012-13 are inaccurate, as they are not based on clearly demonstrable savings to local authorities.

In response to a Government consultation on this issue, which closed on Thursday (January 12), London Councils argues that the current proposals will leave local authorities with a shortfall in their education budgets, unfairly reducing funding available to maintained schools.

Growing numbers of schools across the capital are converting to academies as part of the Government’s drive to create independent, state-funded schools.  The Education Secretary Michael Gove has urged councils to create academies or free schools if a new school is needed in the borough, to encourage innovation and choice.

The Department for Education (DfE) claims that councils will be able to make savings through the creation of these new schools which are outside of local authority control. However, London Councils warns that there is a lack of evidence to support the way in which the funding transfer has been calculated.

Any actual savings councils realise from academies will be made over substantial periods of time, as budgets are re-allocated – and not overnight, as the DfE assumes.

It also remains unclear how local authorities will make savings through the creation of free schools, where they will receive no obvious additional funding to support these new schools even though they will still have statutory responsibilities to fulfil, such as co-ordinating admissions, for example.

Steve Reed, Executive Member for Children and Young People on London Councils, said: “We have deep reservations that the Government’s sums on how academies will be funded do not add up and it will be council tax payers who have to pick up the bill for this. We are also concerned that the impact of these flawed calculations will be felt far beyond the classroom as other services are cut as a result.

 

“Councils across London want to work with the Government to raise standards in education, but we need the Education Secretary to work with us to make sure schools funding is fair.” 

 

Councils are also concerned that the Government has failed to recognise the cost to local authorities of the creation of academies in their borough. All schools converting to academy status will receive a £25,000 start-up grant, but the cost to local authorities of the legal fees to transfer ownership of land, for example, has not been taken into consideration.

In responding to the Government’s consultation, London Councils calls for the DfE to use actual savings to local authorities, to quantify the amount a local authority will save through the creation of an academy. It also urges the DfE to work with London Councils and boroughs in establishing the level of actual savings and the timing of transfer, once local authorities know how many academies are open in their borough.


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