‘Shambolic’ state of new St Albans academy’s funding

Samuel Ryder Academy

Samuel Ryder Academy - Credit: Archant

An all-through school in St Albans was forced to push for additional funding after a government bungle left it facing a major budget shortfall.

A spokesman for the Department for Education has confirmed to the Herts Advertiser that it failed to adjust its funding allocation for Samuel Ryder Academy in line with a rise in pupil numbers at the school.

This paper has been told that the bungle, which is believed to have resulted in a £3 million shortfall, was a result of a miscalculation by the department and that the fault lay completely with officials there.

The education spokesman said that following discussions with Herts county council, the shortfall had been “resolved and the correct level of funding has been agreed”.

A spokesman for the council said the school’s funding had ceased to be its responsibility when it converted to an academy, replacing the former Francis Bacon School in 2012.

The new academy, in Drakes Drive, is overseen by the Sir John Lawes Academies Trust and was Herts’ first all-through school, providing an education for children between four and 19 years of age.

When Ofsted inspectors visited the new academy in February last year, its monitoring report said there were then 345 pupils on the roll, the majority of whom were in Years 7 to 13. However this has since risen to about 500.

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While refusing to comment on the school, St Albans MP Anne Main criticised the Education Funding Agency (EFA) which manages £54 billion of funding a year to support all state-provided education for children and is an executive agency of the Department for Education,

Mrs Main said: “I am very concerned at the funding arrangements and decision-making process at the EFA with regards to schools in my constituency.

“Delays and mistakes at the EFA are, I am sure, affecting schools across the county through no fault of the schools, but as a result of errors at the EFA.

“Schools have to keep calling them, and there is a lack of certainty as a result. The funding department can’t seem to get its act together.”

She pointed to problems experienced in Radlett, where the opening of a free school has been delayed by a year because of problems stemming from the Department for Education.

Mrs Main said she had made “strong representations” to Education Secretary Michael Gove on the matter.

She added: “This shambolic approach cannot continue. I am more than willing to assist any schools in St Albans that may encounter issues with the EFA, as my office has previously cut through some of the red tape.

“We need more efficient decision-making from the agency.”

No-one at the school has responded to calls.