Ilford school finance boss tried to 'maximise' pupil numbers for cash
PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 November 2019
A school's head of finance tried to "maximise" the number of pupils to get more government cash.
Staff at Winston Way received a baffling email from the head of finance on September 26, in the run-up to the Department for Education's autumn schools census.
In it, the financial controller wrote she was "trying to maximise numbers" to protect the school's budget.
After the Autumn Census, the government gives each school a set amount of cash for every pupil, meaning the more pupils the school has the more money it gets.
At Winston Way, this was set at £4,314 per head this year.
In practice it is not possible to over-claim as UK school pupils have a unique reference number and discrepancies are flagged long before the money is allocated. The school said the final figures it submitted were correct.
But in her email to staff, the financial controller had written: "It is census day on 3rd October therefore it is imperative that our pupil numbers are at the maximum, in order to safeguard our budget for the school.
"Please note that all though [sic] Integris [the electronic register] may show you have over 30 pupils in your class, in reality you have less, as we have to follow the 20 day rule before we can off roll children who have left us.
"I am trying to maximise numbers before the 3rd October and once we off roll pupils we should have 30 in each class."
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The "20-day rule" refers to part of the Education Regulations 2006. Youngsters who have been absent without reason or authorisation must not be taken off a school's register until at least 20 days have passed, for safeguarding reasons.
But the rule does not apply to pupils who have registered at another school. These kinds of pupils must be removed immediately.
A staff member at Winston Way said that when term started in September, two pupils who had left over the summer and registered at another state primary were still on their school's register on Census Day.
They told the Recorder: "The office were told they were leaving. But they were still on the register and nothing happened.
"Then this blanket email was sent out to all staff in every single classroom of the academy."
"It seems we were trying to put these numbers through the local authority to get more money."
A specialist education solicitor told the Recorder: "Exaggerating numbers on the census should not be happening. But the legislation is very tightly worded to prevent off-rolling and informal applications."
United Learning, one of England's biggest academy trust, took over the school last year after its former operator the Silver Birch chain came under fire.
In mid-June 2018 investigators from the Education Skills and Funding Agency published a critical report into financial management at Silver Birch, exposing "instances of potential novel or contentious payments" and ordering it to "take immediate action".
A spokesperson for the school said: "We have checked the numbers submitted to the ESFA. They were correct."