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A lack of transparency in funding and expenditure has led to calls for local authority control

Councils call for oversight of academy finance

Questions raised about EFA's capacity to provide academy finance scrutiny following reports of abuse

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 04, 2016 | Law, finance, HR

Councils are calling for the power and resources to make sure money given to schools is spent on education and support for children, following a series of recent abuses of the school finance system by academies and free schools under the watch of the Education Funding Authority (EFA). 

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England and Wales, is today calling on the new Education Secretary to restore local oversight of all school finances, providing democratic accountability so that parents and communities can be confident their children aren’t missing out.    

Councils currently oversee the budgets of maintained schools, making sure that the books are balanced, money is being spent appropriately, and any inconsistencies or concerns are spotted and dealt with quickly. Academies and free schools, however, are monitored by the EFA, which is an agency of the Department for Education (DfE).

The EFA is currently overseeing the accounts of around 5,000 academies, however the Government stated earlier this year its intention for all schools to become academies by 2022, increasing the number of academies and free schools by nearly 400%, to more than 20,000.

Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “The National Audit Office has raised serious concerns about the ability of the DfE to effectively monitor academy trusts’ spending, even before the planned expansion of the academy programme, and we don’t believe it can possibly have effective oversight of spending in more than 20,000 schools. Centralising control of schools isn't working; oversight needs to be devolved down to local councils.”   

Who should have oversight over academy expenditure? How can academy trusts be more transparent? Tell us what you think – send your blogs to the editor.

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