Academies: Instead of tarring everyone with the same brush – shouldn’t we be painting a brighter picture!
There are three things that I feel I can count on each year.
- I will get a tax bill in January
- I will get more letters inviting me to health check-ups than I did the year before
- The first part of the year will see the papers saying that the academy sector is “in crisis” after journalists and the public rightly scrutinise trust accounts.
Panorama investigations and the regular headlines emanating from Schools Week show that 2019 is no different!
I think it is important that we get a couple of things clear – and regular readers please forgive me if some of this sounds repetitive.
Yes, there are trusts who do not manage their finances correctly. It is right that where there has been financial mismanagement, this should be highlighted and addressed. I don’t think that there is anyone who would disagree with that.
But, these trusts are the exception rather than the norm. It is correct to say that 5% of trusts have raised eyebrows for causing some financial issues – but that means that 95% are following the Academies Financial Handbook to the letter of the law.
Equally, the good thing about academies is that it is much easier for parents to scrutinise our accounts and have assurance that money is being well spent. If we are honest, there are LAs who have not been audited for 30 years. Yet, every 12 months, academies have to complete an internal and external audit, publish their accounts online, be scrutinised by the ESFA, respond to the RSC… I think you get my point.
Speak to any good MAT senior leader and I have no doubt that they would say that they are now monitored more than they have ever been throughout the course of their career. I simply wonder if academies just get more of the blame as more, rightly, gets uncovered?
I feel I am ranting! So let me finish with one simple question…..so, what? Why is this important?
I firmly believe that we need to start championing where academies are working. Every story I seem to read is about the 5% – it does not focus on the trusts who are doing some amazing things. We have been doing MAT MOTs on trusts who have seen academic performance increase, money being used more effectively and whose staff have been developed and trained. Their successes are impressive.
Yet, leaders in these MATs see that as simply doing their job. They don’t shout about it. I believe that we should be joining together to learn from and champion these trusts.
They are the people I want to be making the headlines!