“Academy schools ‘not accountable enough’ “

“Academy schools are not “sufficiently transparent or accountable to parents and local communities”, MPs have said.

Half of all children in English state-funded schools are educated by academy trusts, the Public Accounts Committee noted, in a report out today.

Academies have greater freedoms than local authority-maintained schools and can set staff pay and conditions, determine their own curriculum and are directly responsible for financial as well as educational performance.

But the PAC report said that parents and local people “have to fight to obtain even basic information” about trusts, and they do not explain decisions on how they are spending public money.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “When things go wrong in schools, pupils can be badly affected. We have seen the troubling consequences of poor governance and oversight of academy trusts government must raise its game to ensure the failures of the past are not repeated.

“Parents and the wider community are entitled to proper access to transparent information about their local academy schools. They must have confidence that when issues arise, robust measures are in place to deal with them.”

Academies have been criticised in recent years for paying excessive salaries to members of staff.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency had tried to tackle this issue, on the PAC’s advice, the committee noted.

The ESFA wrote to 29 single academies in November 2017 asking for justification of salaries over £150,000.

But, the committee said, the ESFA action alone would not prevent academy staff being paid excessive salaries.

The PAC also noted that Ofsted and ESFA are not able to assess the impact of funding pressures on the quality of education and the outcomes schools achieve.

It recommended the ESFA should require academy trusts, in the academies financial handbook 2019, to make financial information more readily available. The guidance should also require academies to be more transparent about governance and decision-making at all levels. …”