Sara Bubb Associates

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Understanding the Middle Tier: Comparative Costs of Academy and LA-maintained School Systems - to download the report (PDF, 116 pages), click here.

"This thorough research shows our schools are suffering from excessive, unnecessary and expensive overheads" - Professor Sir Tim Brighouse, formerly Schools Commissioner for London


Our unprecedented study uncovers the costs of England’s two parallel systems for overseeing academies and local authority (LA) schools. It is a complex and confusing picture: as the Public Accounts Committee has said, 'arrangements for oversight of schools are fragmented and incoherent, leading to inefficiency for government and confusion for schools.’


We found that the ‘middle tier’ oversight functions for academies cost 44% more than for LA-maintained schools. In 2016/17 (latest available data), the overall cost of the middle tier for the academy system was £687.4m or £167.05 per pupil, compared to £524.4m or £115.71 per pupil for the LA system.


We also found that large multi-academy trusts (11+ academies) did not demonstrate the economies of scale that might be expected: their academies had the highest cost per pupil.


The Department for Education (DfE) does not publish information about the costs of middle tier functions performed by its agencies, despite its importance in Government policy. DfE refused our Freedom of Information requests.


The report's recommendations include:

  • An urgent review of the middle tier system in the light of international best practice

  • Greater efficiency, fairness and transparency in funding the oversight of England’s school system

  • An evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the MAT model.

This research report was commissioned and part-funded by the Local Government Association, but both its content and this website express the independent views of its authors: Dr Sara Bubb, Jonathan Crossley-Holland, Julie Cordiner, Dr Susan Cousin and Professor Peter Earley.

The report is copyright © Sara Bubb Associates 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5272-4335-4

For any enquiries regarding this publication, please contact Dr Sara Bubb at [email protected]