Academies hoard £2.5 billion

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ACADEMY schools in England are sitting on a vast hoard of cash estimated to be nearly £2.5 billion, or more than £550,000 per school.

Money that should be used on educating children is being squirreled away by academies – that exist outside any local government control and are responsible only to the private trusts set up to run them and to the Department for Education – in order, they claim, to provide a ‘safety net’.

Exactly why they need a safety net hasn’t been explained but they have embarked on a massive round of cutting back on educational spending in order to get it.

To get an idea of just how excessive these cash reserves are, the amount held on average by academy schools is £586,000 which is five times the amount held by the average maintained school which holds in the bank, £116,000.

The question remains how did these academy schools amass such large sums from their government grants in the first place and just what are they saving it all up for?

This was expressed by Christine Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, who said: ‘If a school or group of schools have put away these amounts of money, what are they stockpiling it for? Are they making money off the interest? Are they saving it for a rainy day? The amounts we are talking about are staggering, according to these figures.’ Adding that in a time of vicious austerity parents had a right to know how academies have been able to just put such an amount to one side, she questioned: ‘What have they cut in children’s education to do this?’

While it is not possible to be sure exactly how every individual school trust has been able to amass such large amounts it is absolutely clear that this is money that should be spent on the educational needs of all school children and not left in bank accounts.

However figures released last year for money granted by the government for school maintenance to both academy and maintained schools gives a clear indication.

For the year 2014/15 the money made available for maintenance capital was massively higher, in proportion, for academy schools than non-academy – 3,693 academies got £442 million while 16,000 non-academies got only £699 million.

While the Tory-led government is happy to throw extra money to its ‘flagship’ academies, local authorities are being so under-funded that they are struggling to support maintained schools properly, with the deliberate aim of forcing academy status on every school and thereby paving the way for the privateers to really make profit out of the education system.

Not that they haven’t  made a lot out of education already.

Research carried out by the TUC last year revealed that the academy and ‘free school’ programme pursued by the coalition has put £80 million in the pockets of private consultants.

In March 2014 the TUC calculated that this money, to lawyers, head-hunters, accountants, estate agents and management consultants, had been paid out to just 14 private firms providing services to these schools.  

As for ‘free schools’, the cutting edge of the Tories’ privatisation plans, they had £5000 million spent on them for buildings in return for which they educate just 0.3% of children.

The ultimate aim of the Tories and the companies that form the majority of educational trusts running academies is for them to be turned into ‘for profit’ businesses, something not allowed at the moment.

Significantly, the new Tory Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who replaced the despised Michael Gove last year, in an interview stated that for-profit education was under ‘consideration’ and that she had ‘left the door open to the introduction of for-profit schools’, saying it was a policy on which she was ‘happy to take further advice’.

The only advice appropriate to the scandal of privatisation of the education system is to kick out the government behind it and go forward to a workers government and a socialist society where free education for every child is an absolute right.