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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Education in the Media: Monday 10 September 2018

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Academies, Apprenticeships, Curriculum

Today’s Education in the Media looks at tonight’s BBC Panorama programme and its investigation into the financial oversight of academies, degree apprenticeships and calls for a shake-up of Religious Education.

BBC Panorama

Tonight, Monday 10 September, BBC Panorama will air its investigation examining the financial oversight of academies. The programme will look at the Bright Tribe Trust in particular.

BBC Panorama issued a press release detailing the allegations against Bright Tribe Trust. This has been covered today by The Times, Daily Mail, the Sun, the Today Programme and Schools Week.

We are clear that the overwhelming majority of academy trusts are stable and financially compliant:

  • Fewer than 2% of academy trusts are subject to an active Financial Notice to Improve;
  • In 2015/16 auditors concluded that there were no regularity exceptions in trust accounts for over 95% of trusts; and
  • At the end of the academic year 2016/17, 91.6% of trusts had a cumulative surplus and 2.3% had a zero balance.

We will rebroker academy trusts where necessary to intervene where there are failures, but the numbers are low:

  • The total number of academies that have moved trust between financial years 2013-14 to 2017-18 was 628; and
  • The proportion of academies that have moved trust over this time has increased from 0.5 per cent to 3.3 per cent of all open academies in England.

Since 2010 we have converted almost 7,000 schools, many of which are in the most disadvantaged areas of the country. In addition, more than 480,000 children now study in sponsored academies rated Good or Outstanding that were typically previously underperforming schools.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System Lord Agnew said:

We take the use of public money very seriously and will not tolerate those who try to exploit the system for personal gain. Academies have to provide more information on their accounts than other schools and the most recent published financial audit found that more than 95% trusts had no issues.

Where funding is given to a trust for a specific reason, it must be used for that purpose and we have clear rules and systems in place to hold them to account if we are not satisfied – including terminating funding and recovering money that has not been spent in the agreed way, as we have done with Bright Tribe Trust. We will continue to clamp down on financial wrong-doing if it arises and are giving the Education and Skills Funding Agency more powers to tackle this, including making trusts declare all related party transactions and seek approval for any transaction over £20,000.

Whitehaven Academy is being re-brokered into a strong academy trust and we’ve provided substantial capital funding to rebuild much of this school. But I am clear that Bright Tribe Trust is not representative of all academies, and more than half a million children are now in good or outstanding academies that were typically previously underperforming schools thanks to innovative trusts across the country.

Degree Apprenticeships

Today, Monday 10 September, The Engineering Professors’ Council published a report, which calls for changes to degree apprenticeships.

This was covered by the Times, which reported that degree apprenticeships have grown in popularity but that university professors claim that that too much emphasis is being placed on tailoring them towards specific ‘overbearing’ employer needs, and that this could risk presenting them as an inferior option to a traditional degree.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said:

For too long full-time academic degrees have been seen as the only route into a successful career. We want to change that, so we are transforming technical education to put it on a par with our world-class universities.

You can now gain a degree while getting a salary, training on the job and having your tuition fees paid for you. Degree apprenticeships are available in a wide range of subjects including aerospace engineering, nursing, nuclear science and architecture. They offer those that might not have considered higher education as an option the chance to pursue a career path that is right for them. Degree apprenticeships also appeal to those who want to gain on the job experience whilst also getting a degree.

Over 100 universities are now on board and able to offer degree apprenticeships, including many Russell Group universities – and we’re excited to see the opportunities they offer as they grow their schemes.

So make sure you have a look at all the options out there, and choose the route that is right for you and will take you to the future you want!

Religious Education

The Commission for Religious Education, a campaign group, is publishing its report on how to improve the teaching of religious education on Wednesday, 12 September, during an event at the House of Commons.

A trail of the report was covered widely over the weekend by the Sunday Times, The People, Sunday Telegraph, Observer, Independent, Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Express, PA, BBC Online and BBC Breakfast.

While it isn’t mandatory to take a religious studies GCSE, religious education (RE) is compulsory at all key stages in all state-funded schools. The proportion of time secondary schools spend teaching RE has remained broadly stable over recent years.

A DfE spokesperson said:

Religious education helps to develop children’s knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and to foster understanding among different faiths and cultures – it is also compulsory for all age groups in state-funded schools. The report by the Commission for Religious Education highlights the challenges faced in teaching Religious education. We will look at its recommendations.


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