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Trust generated surplus of £2m, says new report

A trust that runs two high schools generated a surplus of just under £2m, its annual report has said.

In its annual report to 31st August 2021 the Learning Alliance said that the most significant events in the year had been the merger of Congleton and Knutsford multi-academy trusts to form the alliance, and the ongoing impact of covid-19 on all schools within the trust.

The report said the merger had resulted in a “significant increase” in the funds of the trust, as the former Knutsford schools joined on 1st September, while covid-19 had resulted in “distortions to typical patterns of income and expenditure”, due to additional funding and differing spending to meet the needs of remote working and other contingency planning arrangements.

The academy trust operates three primary schools and four secondary schools, a studio school and a university technical college in Cheshire East and north Staffordshire. Its academies have a combined pupil capacity of 6,382 and had a roll of 4,626 in the school census in October 2021.

At the balance sheet date all schools had a “strong reserves position” said the report, with each holding at least 5% of annual grant income in reserve, and in some cases a much higher percentage. Where this was the case, the accumulation of reserves has been done for a specific short to medium term strategic purpose, linked to reinvestment in school sites. There were planned building projects at Black Firs Primary, Congleton High School, and Knutsford Academy, as well as an extensive refurbishment programme at The Oaks Academy.

Black Firs had reserves of £227,000 Castle Primary, Mow Cop, £60,000 and Congleton High School £607,000.

On 1st September 2021, Crewe Engineering and Design UTC joined the trust. The trust said it worked closely with the college’s principal and senior leadership team, and newly-formed local governing board, to ensure the UTC was integrated into the trust.

The main source of income for the trust was £21m in Government grants, with an £894,000 pupil premium and £105,000 for infant school meals.

Local authority grants were £379,000 and covid-19 catch-up premium £297,000. The trust spent £5,000 of this latter sum, with the remaining £292,000 carried forward to be spent in 2021/22.

The biggest expense was wages and salaries – £15m – with social security and pension costs bringing this to £20m.

The trust employs 231 teachers, 292 administration and support staff and 33 management, a total of 556. Locally, Black Firs spent £1.5m on education provision, Castle primary £532,000 and Congleton High £7.6m.

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