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Academy conversion costs councils millions

BBC investigation reveals huge cost of academisation for local authorities as schools leave their control

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 25, 2015 | Law, finance, HR

Over half of the country’s secondary schools have now converted to academy status, with more to come. However, as they leave local authority (LA) control, millions in debt has been inherited by councils, the BBC has revealed. 

The Freedom of Information request revealed that £30m of debt has been cleared using LA government education grant, despite schools becoming free of LA control. The Department for Education (DfE) has stated that as debt built up while schools were under council control, they are obliged to pay it. 

The highest debt was found in the north-west with over £7 million, followed by London with £5 million. 

Where does the debt come from? 

When local authority schools choose to convert, councils pick up the tab – including leftover deficit and legal costs. In 2013, Birmingham council feared it would run out of budget completely due to conversion costs. The responsibility can also affect schools still under LA control, whose budget is reduced.

Christine Blower, from the National Union of Teachers, told the BBC: 'This is another example of the financial pressures that the academies policy has brought to bear on local authorities' education budgets.

'As a direct consequence of the academies programme, local authorities have less money to fund and support other schools.'

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