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Multi-academy trusts report record-breaking financial surpluses but sector warns caution

26 January 2022

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The 10th annual Kreston Academies Benchmark Report published today has revealed that the average in-year financial surplus for a multi-academy trust (MAT) doubled to more than £460k in 2021, up from £221k in 2020.

Overall, this equates to a 94% uplift per academy from 2020 to 2021 – representing the sector’s highest ever surplus. 

Academy trust cash balances have been strengthened through the injection of government funding assigned for Covid testing, education catch-up programmes and other Covid-related costs which schools have not yet had the time or capacity to spend due to the pandemic. 

The surpluses have also been reinforced by the cancellation of exams and the reduced costs associated with utilities, staffing and maintenance due to schools not being fully open during lockdown. These surpluses will be needed to fund the recovery effort.

Darren O’Connor, Partner and Head of Academies at James Cowper Kreston, said: “There’s no denying that multi-academy trusts have had a record-breaking year in terms of their financial health. However, the data reveals a more complex picture.

“Government funding to cover costs relating to the pandemic have largely not been spent as time constraints saw existing school staff focusing on the introduction of new measures to support pupils and tackle the spread of the virus. This money will be invested in due course to address the impact the pandemic has had on pupils’ education and wellbeing.

“Additional spending resulting from rising inflation, energy price increases and the cost of covering staff shortages will rapidly reduce the financial gains across the sector.”

Leora Cruddas CBE, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said: “The Academies Benchmark Report shows that the sector is generally in the robust financial health it will need to face the considerable challenges ahead.”

The report shows primary academies have struggled more than secondary trusts or MATs, with average surpluses at just £14k in 2020/21. It is likely that this smaller surplus reflects the costs primary schools have incurred in managing the administrative burden of Covid-19 and being open to more pupils for a longer period during the pandemic.

Published annually by Kreston Global’s academies group, the report is a financial state of the nation survey of over 300 trusts representing over 1,500 schools. The survey covers the 2020/21 academic year. The report should be of use to Business Managers, Accounting Officers and trustees and should provide real insight into emerging trends within the sector.


Click here to download the full Kreston Academies Benchmark Report.