School finances during the Covid-19 pandemic


Data sources

The data used to review how schools finances changed during Covid-19 are the academies accounts return (AAR) and consistent financial reporting (CFR) return. Both datasets are published annually and are publicly available, albeit there is a 6-9 month lag after the end of the periods for both sets of data. AAR is the annual financial return data for all academies and trusts.  This is reported on an academic year basis between September and August. CFR is the annual financial return data for all maintained schools and covers a financial year period between April and March.

Joining datasets over a 3-year period

We transform the data in several ways to separate out the income and expenditure categories, alongside the revenue reserve.

The AAR and CFR both record a school’s finances through detailed income and expenditure categories.  We match the income and expenditure categories across the data sets but, over time and between the data sets, the naming conventions of the spending categories can vary.  We have had to make judgements about how we match the various categories. There have also been changes in how totals are reported due to accounting alterations and as a result, these may not fully match the published CFR (for LA maintained) and AAR (for academies) datasets on GOV.UK.  Our review takes the 20/21 accounting procedure and applies this as standard across all the required years.

We have also aggregated total income, expenditure, and revenue reserve at an overall phase level to gain additional insight. This allows us to see not only what happened at a national level, but also for primary schools, secondary schools etc.

Inclusion of central services per pupil proportion

The academies income and expenditure category totals include a central services per pupil proportion. The central services proportion for each category is matched on company number, then multiplied by the number of pupils within the relevant member academy before being added to the academy proportion. Trusts typically use a small amount of funding from their academies to provide a range of central services to those academies e.g. a large MAT might employ an HR function centrally that assists all academies in that trust. This financial data is recorded separately to the financial data for academies within the MAT. 

In order to include this funding in our analysis, we apportioned trust central services funding across member academies based on pupil numbers in each member academy, and aggregated these to get totals for each phase of education. Whilst this is only a small proportion of total academy funding, its inclusion helps to give a more complete  picture of finances throughout the system. This apportionment of trust central funding is intended purely as an indicative guide and we recognise that there are reasons why, in reality, trusts may fund differently at individual academy level. However, in order to show the trends of school finances in aggregate over Covid-19, especially by phase, we felt apportionment was preferable to exclusion from the analysis. An example is provided below to illustrate the methodology:


  • academy A (primary) = 10 pupils and existing academy level revenue reserve (RR) of £100 
  • academy B (secondary) = 20 pupils and existing academy level RR of £100 
  • academy C (secondary) = 20 pupils and existing academy level RR of £100 
  • trust (containing academies A, B and C) = £500 of central services RR, to be apportioned to each member academy
  • academies A, B and C form a multi-academy trust (MAT).


  1. We take the MAT central services figure and divide it by the total number of pupils in that MAT.
    a. £500÷50 pupils = £10 per pupil
  2. Thereafter we multiply the per pupil figure for that MAT by the number of pupils in each member academy, to get a total figure per academy. To link the MAT to its member academies, we match using company number.
    a. Academy A: £10*10 pupils = £100
    b. £100 existing academy level RR + £100 portion of MAT central revenue reserve
    c. Academy A total: £100 + £100 = £200
  3. We then sum the total for each member academy, to get a total figure per phase.
    a. Primary total = Academy A £200 = £200
    b. Secondary total =  Academy B £300 + Academy C £300 = £600
    c. In the analysis, overall phase breakdowns are provided at a national level

Pupil count is taken from CFR and AAR datasets

DfE official statistics publications often use pupil count from the schools census data. Instead, to ensure a consistent data source, we use the pupil counts that schools provide as part of the publicly available CFR and AAR data sets.

Future data releases

The 2021-22 CFR data that was released in December 2022 shows how LA maintained schools have fared post Covid-19 restrictions, whereas we will have a more accurate picture of academies’ finances once their post Covid-19 data is released in spring 2023.

Following this release, further work may be carried out to review of the impact of academies’ finances post Covid-19 and trends across income and expenditure categories.

Help and support

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about School finances during the Covid-19 pandemic statistics and data:

Schools and Funding Analysis Division

Contact name: Martyn Rath
Telephone: 0

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

Opening times:
Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays)