Audit office issues alert on Education Funding Agency

The Guardian is reporting concerns from the National Audit Office that the Education Funding Agency – created to manage funding for academies and free schools – may struggle to spot future cases of school financial mismanagement because of an increasing workload and extra demands being placed upon it…

The investigation by the government auditors into the performance of the EFA warns that the agency faces a 50% increase in the number of institutions it has to oversee on behalf of the Department for Education over the next three years while having to cut nearly 15% from its administration costs.

It says the agency needs to improve its “horizon scanning” capabilities to spot financial problems at academies and free schools, which have to provide their own audits and manage their own budgets, rather than rely on local authorities.

“There is a risk that the agency fails to spot and respond to some strategic risks, which could damage its and the department’s reputation or have financial impacts,” the NAO concludes…

The NAO report is critical of the additional burdens the EFA is being asked to shoulder, saying that the DfE “did not sufficiently define what it expected the agency to achieve, nor has it fully considered the agency’s capacity when increasing its responsibilities.”

The DfE said the NAO report recognised the good work that the agency had done in its first year of operation and that it was meeting the challenges of the growth in the number of academies.

“The EFA has built new systems so it can operate more effectively and oversee a system of financial accountability for academies that is more rigorous than the system for maintained schools. The agency has also achieved significant savings for the public purse in school rebuilding programmes – some 35% cheaper than under the previous government,” the DfE said…

The report says: “The agency has fulfilled most of its day to‐day funding and assurance responsibilities, developed new approaches to capital programmes, and is on track to meet its required cost savings. However, it also faces an expanding remit, a rapidly growing customer base, and further required reductions in operating costs.”

It also found the EFA had been unable to meet its own timetable for surveying state school properties in England: “Due to inconsistent data received from local authorities, the agency did not meet its deadline and still needs to survey 8,000 schools at a cost of £6m. Not receiving the data on time has affected future capital funding decisions.”

More at: Audit office issues alert on Education Funding Agency

How much of a concern is it that the EFA may not be adequately resourced to undertake its role properly moving forwards? Please share your thoughts in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Academies, Free Schools and Policy.

Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Yet more teething problems for DfE policies; if only they were fully thought through before implementation

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