The Commons Public Accounts Committee heard that almost £300m originally intended to tackle failing secondary schools was diverted to academies in the first two years of this parliament.
According to the evidence given, £294m was spent on the creation of sponsored academies between 2010 and 2012, but the cash actually came from the Department for Education’s (DfE) school improvement budget.
However, DfE permanent secretary Chris Wormald denied suggestions that the funding decision was “hitting the poor to help the better off”, and said that sponsored academies have been shown to be a highly successful mechanism for turning around failing schools and that using the funds had been “ a very conscious decision” by the Government.
Mr Wormald insisted that academies had not been handed preferential funding to reward them for leaving local authority control, but admitted that the situation was unclear due to the lack of any requirement for individual academies to publish detailed accounts.
Replying to questions from the Committee, Mr Wormald said that the Government was trying to put as few burdens on academies as possible and is of the view that those audited accounts are the best way to hold the system to account.
However, Chair of the committee Margaret Hodge said that the lack of detailed accounts for individual academies ran counter to the Government’s transparency agenda and added that the Committee would like to be able to compare, on a value-for-money basis, the expenditure per pupil in whatever school they attend if it is funded by the taxpayer.
Mrs Hodge continued that she would keep pressing Mr Wormald to come up with the appropriate data and posted on her Twitter feed after the meeting: “Must be proper transparency and accountability for academies and free schools. Not there yet.”
As an accountant, Gill Freeman specialises within academy finances and charity tax.