Academies funded on estimates

Information for academies funded on estimated pupil numbers


For most academies, the 2018 autumn census return formed the basis for calculating pupil led funding for the 2019 to 2020 academic year. In some cases we use estimated pupil numbers if the academy’s funding agreement includes a clause to this effect.

The types of academies funded on estimates include:

  • older academies with the funding agreement clause
  • brand new institutions with no previous school
  • growing schools that are still adding year groups

The funding agreement clause may be conditional, and an academy’s allocation is funded on estimates until certain conditions are met. This is usually until all year groups are present, and/or where occupancy as determined by the previous autumn census return is more than 90% of total capacity. Once these conditions are met, the autumn census becomes the basis for future funding.

Special and alternative provision academies are not funded on estimates as the number of high needs places forms the basis of their general annual grant. More information on how high needs places are funded is available in the high needs funding arrangements for 2019 to 2020 guide.

Please refer to the academies revenue funding allocations guide for more information on how your allocation is calculated.

Estimate funding allocation and adjustment cycle

Period Process
October Academies submit estimated pupil numbers to ESFA
January ESFA confirms funded pupil numbers
March ESFA issues initial funding allocations
September ESFA begins payment of initial allocations in monthly instalments
October Academies report actual pupil numbers in the autumn schools census
May ESFA issues PNA statements
July ESFA pays positive PNA adjustments (backdated from September)
July Academies agree repayment plans for PNA recoveries
September ESFA begins recovery of PNA in instalments from the general annual grant (GAG)

Revenue funding data collection (RFDC)

We collect pupil number estimates through the annual RFDC process in October using an online form via the ESFA portal.

The estimate of pupil numbers is central to the calculation of an academy’s budget and we work with institutions to ensure this estimate is as accurate as possible.

To help with the development of the estimate, the RFDC form includes trend information for the school. It provides, where available, the last five years estimated pupil numbers, the autumn census figures for the same year, the difference between the two, and any funding adjustments arising from the pupil number adjustment (PNA) exercise.

We review the pupil number estimates to ensure they are reasonable, and that evidence supports any increases.

If an academy in scope for RFDC does not submit their pupil estimates, we will use the census data to calculate their funding; if they are a growing school that is still adding year groups, this can result in a funding shortfall.

Pupil number adjustment (PNA)

Where we initially fund academies based on estimated pupil numbers, we include them in the annual pupil number adjustment (PNA) exercise during the academic year. The exercise determines if adjustments are required to bring initial funding allocations into line with the actual pupil numbers that schools record in the autumn (October) school census.

Some estimate-funded academies have funding agreements with a PNA threshold, where no adjustment will occur if actual pupil numbers vary by more or less than a specified percentage. If an academy’s estimate of pupil numbers is outside the threshold, or no threshold applies, we adjust funding through the PNA process. This results in either an increase or decrease in funding.

We use an academy’s estimated pupil numbers and the pupil led funding they receive to produce per-pupil funding rates for the academic year. We multiply the difference in actual pupil numbers, taking account of any threshold, by the per-pupil rates, to determine the required adjustment. As in previous years, we run the calculation separately for pre-16 school budget share and 16 to 19 funding, and then combine the results into a single overall adjustment.

Where local authorities have already funded growth in pre-16 pupil numbers to meet basic need, we will deduct the amount they have paid from any positive PNA to ensure that academies are only funded for the growth once.

PNA calculator

You can use our PNA calculator with the figures you have for your academy to estimate your own adjustment. By inputting your own projected numbers, it can also provide a reasonable estimate for future years, to inform your longer-term budget planning.

PNA calculator for 2019 to 2020 academic year

Academies in scope of PNA receive their statements in May. Academies receive payment of any positive adjustments in July. PNA recoveries start from September, in the following academic year.

Published 2 November 2016
Last updated 7 January 2020 + show all updates
  1. We have updated the PNA calculator and guidance for the 2019 to 2020 academic year.

  2. We've added the PNA calculator for the 2018 to 2019 academic year and updated the PNA supporting information.

  3. Updated PNA guidance and added PNA calculator for the academic year 2017 to 2018

  4. Updated information on the pupil number adjustment (PNA) process for 2016 to 2017 academic year.

  5. First published.