The Financial Times reports that
“Hundreds of state schools that took part in the government’s flagship academies reform programme last year were accidentally given large incentives to do so, often worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
An average 1,000 strong secondary school gained £118,000 if it converted in 2010/11.
This ‘mistake’ has apparently now been rectified, although 790 academies that have converted more recently may still receive extra funding.
The FT states
“But the overfunding was worth more than £100,000 over a full year for a 1,000-pupil secondary school in 74 of the 150 boroughs in 2010-11. In 28 local authorities, the error was more than £200,000. In 10 boroughs, the expected potential benefit of conversion was greater than £300,000 a year.”
A DfE spokesman said: “The government has been very clear that the current [funding] system is flawed. That is why we made immediate changes to the formula last year and have since had detailed discussions with local authorities on how to make the system fair and transparent in the future.”
What will the government do now? Will they reclaim the money as they would surely have done if any other school had been mistakenly overfunded? Will they increase the funding to other schools to match the academy windfall?
It has been clear all along that extra funding has been the carrot that the government have used to persuade schools to convert to academies. As the number of academies has risen, and the economic situation has worsened, the extra money is now drying up. With the carrot gone the government has now been left with the stick – telling schools that they are ‘underperforming’ and attempting to scare them into becoming academies. This is meeting real resistance in primary schools across the country.