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The funding landscape

In the first of a series of features, Buzzacott looks at the funding landscape and how it has impacted the academy sector

Posted by Lucinda Reid | November 16, 2016 | Law, finance, HR

The Government launched its White Paper in March 2016, which has been the subject of much interest in its aim to drive every school to be an academy. How far that particular aim is driven remains to be seen but the White Paper does continue along a path of radical change that all schools, currently within or outside the academy movement should take heed of. More than half of academies are already part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) with many more set to form or join MATs. The new language is ‘supported autonomy, alignment of funding, control, responsibility and accountability in one place, and institutional collaboration’. The White Paper signals a ‘school-led’ system where improvement is delivered by effective education leaders and every school is an academy.

Senior management and trustees should be familiar with the White Paper’s contents, which should form the backdrop to academies strategic planning.

Whether you are in a single academy trust (SAT) or a MAT, you work in a complex statutory framework. This update covers some of the latest news on what is happening in the sector, including updates on key financial, compliance and assurance issues and helps signpost you to information relevant to your areas of accountability.

Buzzacott accountants have produced a series of short articles proving an overview of the academy sector. Read on to read the first in our series on the funding landscape:

Schools funding

On 21 July 2016 the new Secretary of State, Justine Greening, confirmed that the much-awaited new funding system will not now apply until the 2018/19 academic year, after she responded to the first stage consultation in the autumn and releases a further full consultation in early 2017. In the meantime, it is confirmed that for 2017/18 no local authority will see a reduction to their 2016/17 funding on the schools’ block of the dedicated schools grant (per pupil funding) or the high needs block (cash amount).

The Secretary of State also confirmed that, for 2017 to 2018, the current minimum funding guarantee will be retained so that no academy can face a funding reduction of more than 1.5% per pupil next year in what it receives through the local authority funding formula. She also announced that she does not intend to proceed, for 2017 to 2018, with proposals to create a new central schools block, allowing local flexibility on the minimum funding guarantee or to ring-fence the schools block within the dedicated schools grant. These will be covered, for 2018 to 2019 and beyond, in her response to the first stage consultation in the autumn.

Risk Protection Arrangements (RPA)

The EFA has issued updated membership rules effective from September 2016. The updated rules provide clarification on some points of cover and also amend the General Annual Grant (GAG) reduction from the current £25 per pupil or place to £20, fixed until August 2018.

Condition Improvement Fund 2016-17

The EFA published the list of successful appeals in July 2016 and will issue details of the next round of CIF in the autumn.

Pension Scheme Valuation

The Local Government Pension Scheme is currently conducting its triennial valuation, which all academies will await with great interest. In October 2016 scheme employers will be consulted on the pension fund’s funding strategy, to be followed in November with the draft valuation results. The final valuation results are not expected to be notified to employers until March 2017.

Better Procurement - cash savings for schools

Schools are being urged to take advantage of special deals negotiated by the Government that they say could save them thousands of pounds on their energy, ICT equipment and printers and photocopiers.

All publicly funded schools are free to make use of these pre-existing contracts, and on average the Government believes they could save up to 10% on energy and over 40% for printers and photocopiers (MFDs). The deals being offered are:

  • Energy - savings from the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) energy deal are typically 10% compared to the average market rate. The deal is tailored to make it easier for schools to access, and schools can join the deal when their current deal(s) expire. For MATs, this means there is no need to amend all the current deals to expire at the same time before joining.
  • Photocopies/MFDs - schools could make savings of over 40% on printers, copiers, scanners or multi-functional devices, with over 3,300 schools already benefiting from this photocopier and printer deal originally RM1599. CCS, Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) and YPO have worked on an improved deal which can be found on the Crown Commercial Service.
  • ICT – if you are buying technology and you want the supplier to install and/or maintain the equipment, the ICT Services for Education framework is available. The deal was put together specifically for schools by the Department for Education (DfE) and the CCS, with input received directly from schools.
  • Hardware - for purchases of ICT hardware items, like computers and laptops, the EFA recommends first looking at CCS and other public sector buying organisation (PSBO) deals. PSBO deals provide preferential pricing, are legally compliant, have pre-agreed terms and conditions, and provide access to support and category expertise.

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