A matter of days ago, it was with some pride that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Brighton asserted that the University of Brighton will “continue to expand its academy chain adding to the fourteen schools it has across Sussex with two further schools in Crawley and the secondary free school in Brighton which will make it the largest university multi-academy trust in the country” (see http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/14837226.Vice_chancellor_makes_pledge_over_university_student_numbers/?commentSort=score ). We presume she thought the further involvement of the University of Brighton in Sussex schools – making it one of the bigger multi academy trusts (MATs) in the country – was good for schools, parents, children and teachers.
But the recent work done by the two biggest teacher unions – the NUT and the ATL – on the magnitude and impact of the Government’s so called ‘Fair Funding Reforms’ for schools puts a very worrying perspective on the Vice Chancellor’s assertion (see here for the NUT and ATL analysis http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk/#/). The NUT and ATL have concluded that, in real terms, schools and academies across the country will lose huge amounts of money rising to £2.5 billion a year by 2020. Ninety two percent of schools will have their funding cut. Will the schools taken over and run as academies by the University of Brighton’s MATs fare better or worse than schools that continue to be accountable through the ballot box to local parents and run by the local authority?
As it happens, the University of Brighton operates two MATs: the Hastings Academy Trust (HAT) and the University of Brighton Academies Trust (UBAT). The analysis of data for HAT schools shows that HAT’s nine schools would see a real terms decrease in funding of over £1.5 million – equivalent to the cost of 36 teachers by 2020. The estimate for the four UBAT primaries, for which data is available, shows a decrease in funding of over £300,000 – the equivalent of 6 teaching posts. A total of nearly £2 million in funding and 42 teaching posts excluding the two Crawley schools to be taken from the local authority and given to a University of Brighton MAT and the secondary free school yet to open in Brighton (if a site can be secured). With these additions the effective shortfall in funding will exceed £2 million by 2020. Our research suggests that the decrease in funding – and the impact on staffing – at some of the University of Brighton’s academies is greater than the decrease at many local authority schools in Sussex.
Perhaps surprisingly, the University of Brighton Vice Chancellor didn’t mention these challenges or how the university’s MATs intend to maintain a good education for the children in the academies run by the university’s MATs in the face of these cuts to funding and staffing.
What this suggests is that aspiring to be “the largest university multi-academy trust in the country” isn’t really the point or good enough for children, parents, schools and teachers. Is the University of Brighton planning to oversee the impact of massive funding cuts on its academies; will these cuts result in significant costs to the university as they compensate their academies for this loss of income (possibly by not charging for their central costs) and/or involve the University via its MATs in implementing draconian cuts to their academies including by making school staff redundant? Is this really the contribution a university should make to education in Sussex?