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Friday, 22 February 2013 20:14

PFI Funded academies to benefit at expense of Kent children in maintained schools

Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, has argued publicly that government run academies in Kent are funded more generously than schools managed by KCC, placing the latter at a disadvantage. I have uncovered, with the assistance of Kent on Sunday, a further stiff financial penalty imposed on KCC for some schools seeking to become academies. A letter from the Department for Education, posted on the proposed Ebbsfleet Academy website (contained in the only news item on the website!) dated May 2012 states: “We are working with Kent County Council to resolve an issue relating to PFI funding, which the Department for Education is keen to resolve as soon as possible. The Minister recently wrote to the Council, highlighting that holding up the school’s transition to Academy status does not help the Authority’s financial situation and poses risks to students’ interests. We are sure this is not the intention”. As a result, there is currently no new academy, and Swan Valley Community School in Swanscombe has encountered a variety of problems partly caused by the delay, as described in a previous article I wrote.  

What this really means is that KCC, which has responsibility for funding the Private Financial Initiative (PFI) contract for the Swan Valley Community school, is expected to still finance it if and when the school passes out of KCC control to central government. This in spite of the fact that as academies are fully funded by government, KCC would receive no income to pay what is called the “affordability gap”.......

 Swan Valley School was the first PFI funded school to be built in Kent, followed by six others: Aylesford School; Ellington  School, Ramsgate; Holmesdale Technology College, Snodland; Hugh Christie Technology College, Tonbridge; The Malling School and The North School, Ashford.

Naturally, I wondered if the same constraint applied to these, and of the six I discovered that Holmesdale Technology College and The Malling School submitted an application to become a Federated academy exactly two years ago, but there is no progress reported on their website, although most applications go through in about four months. Also, governors of The North School planned to apply to become an academy in April 2011, but did not take this further; and there is no indication of the other three schools applying to become academies, perhaps being wary of the PFI issues. 

Kent County Council, in a letter to Kent on Sunday, makes clear they are unhappy about having to make up the affordability gap for schools which would no longer be their responsibility and for which they would receive no income, depriving children attending schools still run by the council of much needed funds for their education. As a result there appears to be an impasse between government and the KCC over the four schools wishing to become academies.

In the interests of the children in KCC maintained schools, one can only hope that Kent County Council maintains its position, and continues to block these applications until it is free of the debt burden it has incurred in providing new school buildings now handed over to government control. Otherwise the education of these children will see further financial cuts, the funds moving to the further benefit of those in academies. 

You will find a copy of the Kent on Sunday news report here.  

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 21:55

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