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Thetford Academy planning £1.5m of savings as accounts reveal financial challenges facing some academies

10:31 09 February 2015

Adrian Ball, executive principal at Thetford Academy, which is planning to make £1.5m of savings.

Adrian Ball, executive principal at Thetford Academy, which is planning to make £1.5m of savings.

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In the third part of a series looking at recently-published accounts of academy schools, education correspondent Martin George looks at the financial challenges some are facing.

Planning for falling rolls

Pupils numbers are a vital component of a school’s funding.

Some sets of accounts highlight risks from increased competition between schools. Norfolk Academies, part of the TEN Group, identified the “strategic risk of competitors in the county, including the introduction of new free schools into Norwich and the conversion of feeder, and other secondary, schools to other academy chains”.

Some other accounts outlined the likely effect of demographics in future years.

Acle Academy’s accounts said risks and uncertainties include “material decrease in income affecting provision” as longer-term plan shows falling pupil numbers.

Its roll fell by 60 students in September 2013, by 15 the following September, with further 20 reduction predicted in 2015. The report warned “falling roll and income will may [sic] require a further staffing adjustment process leading to staff being unsettled”.

Flegg High School’s accounts raise a fall in pupil numbers from 850 to 798.

The report said: “This drop in school numbers was anticipated and is linked to demographics in the area. As the number on roll is projected to continue to fall in the next few years, governors are aware of and have started to plan accordingly, the impact of this on the financial position of the school and on future staffing requirements.”

In contrast, Hellesdon High’s accounts said that in 2013, local demographics indicated there were fewer than 200 student to apply for Year 7 places in September 2014, but it received 250 applications - 25pc from outside the catchment area - and accepted them all as there was spare staff and room capacity because two existing year groups were “significantly below” their planned intake.

Thetford Academy is planning to make £1.5m in savings in the current financial year, on top of £570,000 in 2013-14.

The need to make savings comes because governors identified “the risk of a significant budget gap over the medium term” that governors identified.

Its accounts show the school, which had an income of £7.99m last year, had a deficit of £338,000 - up from £75,000 the previous year.

The academy formally transferred from its previous sponsors to the Inspiration Trust in September 2014.

The Inspiration Trust’s accounts showed its flagship maths and science free school, the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, had a £100,481 deficit, blamed on potential students being deterred by delays securing a permanent location.

Its original application form was based on having 220 students in its first year, but in January 2014 it had 69. The accounts said the new intake for 2014-15 was double that of the first year, “albeit still some way short of capacity”.

Hethersett Academy, which joined Inspiration in November 2013, had a deficit of £35,527, blamed on a falling school roll caused by the period it was in special measures.

Inspiration’s accounts said the remedy for Sir Isaac was to “establish a first-class reputation and increase the roll towards capacity”, while staffing and curriculum changes at Hethersett had been made to revive the reputation of the school.

Great Yarmouth Primary Academy, Norwich Primary Academy, Cromer Academy and the Jane Austen College reported surpluses.

An Inspiration Trust spokesman said: “The accounts show the Inspiration Trust is in good financial health and, as clearly set out on page 39 of the accounts, we have plans in place to deal with deficits, which have mainly been inherited from schools the trust took over or are the result of planning delays impacting recruitment. We always put our pupils and their education first in any plans to deal with deficits.”

The Nicholas Hamond Academy in Swaffham, sponsored by the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) since November 2012, had a £267,000 deficit.

ATT managing director Joyce Hodgetts said the school joined with a deficit budget, and ATT knew that, because of its investment and new resources, “the academy’s budget would remain a deficit in the short term but would achieve a positive budget in the longer term”.

She said ATT has invested £267,000 of revenue funds into the school by the end of 2013-14, and it received equal resourcing to any other ATT school, and there were already improvements in results, pupil numbers and the buildings.

She added: “Over the time, if the current growth in pupils attending the academy continues, this alone will have a significant and positive effect on its budget.”

Last week’s coverage highlighted financial problems faced by City Academy Norwich, which is sponsored by the Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN) Group.

Its accounts report a £461,000 deficit, which a spokesman said was largely due to having to repay two over-paid government grants of £479,000 and £317,000. He added that, excluding the impact of depreciation, the in-year position was £1,000 surplus.

Norfolk’s biggest academy chain puts expansion on hold to concentrate on turning around flagship academy

Financial accounts reveal salaries of principals and leaders of academy chains

Academy accounts help lift the lid on how Norfolk-based academy trusts are developing

Financial accounts reveal how much academy chains charge the schools they sponsor

14 comments

  • Maybe there not sacking the decent staff, maybe they're there's another reason? Maybe they pants!! Just saying! Any counter comments counter arguements which involve evidence to ITlover@counter.com

    Report this comment

    Paul Baxter

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

  • Seriously!? Oh dear jebus!

    Report this comment

    Paul Baxter

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

  • So the Thetford Academy deficit went from 75K to 338K in a year, the same year the Inspiration Trust took over. And they blame inheriting deficits from the previous sponsors. Just sack a few more decent teachers (if there are any left that haven't been forced out yet) and employ more cheap inexperienced staff and NQTs...

    Report this comment

    JRedding

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

  • A new day - a new disaster story for academies

    Report this comment

    Johnboy

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • Dame De Souza should put her collection of Vera Wang tea-sets (@£450 a pop) up for sale on EBay without further delay: needs must when the Devil drives

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • LA schools have to balance their books over 3 years. It seems that, despite hugely advantageous funding, academies can't even manage their budgets. Come on, wake up and expose this incompetency.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • It's not surprising they have a deficit when they were paying consultants £700 a day plus travel and hotel expenses...not to mention all the equipment they left to rot at the Charles BurrellSouth Campus site. Also how you can justify a headteacher..sorry, Executive Principal being on £100k+ at a school that's hardly setting the league tables alight, I have no idea!?

    Report this comment

    dsmi

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • I'd love to know how much the Thetford Academy paid for the 4 page advert wrapped around the Thetford and Brandon Times when it managed to swing a good out of their friends at Ofsted? Plus the goody bags the staff all seem to have been given advertising the same. Treat your teachers well and you wouldn't need to spend so much on supply too!

    Report this comment

    JRedding

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • Are these Academies PFI builds? if so that would go a long way to explaining their financial struggles.

    Report this comment

    caroline jacobs

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • Of course academies can make savings, as I understand that the the pay conditions for teachers are much more 'flexible' than in council schools. An interesting question that the EDP could ask is what the MEDIAN pay for teachers is in academies, I think it is about £35,000 to £40,000 in council schools. A lower figure in academies would indicate that they are management heavy in terms of spending.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • I wonder where the savings will be. Perhaps cut back on the teachers by using those with less experience (or totally unqualified). Unlikely to improve quality of education though, whatever they do. This is a business after all!

    Report this comment

    davidbrian56

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • Ingo its the £50k worth of press and marketing director the trust employs, not to mention the considerable expense of parachuting in a behavior specialist into the Jane Austen due to issues with years 7 and 12.

    Report this comment

    TheTruth

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • Cut the pay of these so called executives who bring nothing to the academy's. I wonder how much Ball is on ?.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Monday, February 9, 2015

  • Why is it that our academies have this innate need for publicity?, just like certain political parties, has this anything to do with insecurity and the need to project oneself over and above the other, regardless of reality? Do these academies employ press officers who work with the 1922 committee? Do we hear of comprehensives which do equally well but are too busy teaching? than to preen and show themselves up every five minutes? NO, we don't, so why does Mr. Ball has this eternal need for gluing another ripped EDP sheet to his collection on the wall? There is nothing special about academies, bar their extraordinary high costs to us, so why this need to project at all times, they are not exemplary to anyone.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, February 9, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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