Academy accounting officers are being encouraged to watch a new online video showing how they should go about their role.
The advice comes from Peter Lauener, Education Funding Agency chief executive, who has written to accounting officers highlighting the need for greater awareness of their responsibilities.
Mr Lauener says that while there is ‘relative stability’ in the accountability framework, creating a ‘practical and robust’ system, important messages about governance and conduct still need to be heard.
The video can be found on this Department for Education webpage: https://registration.livegroup.co.uk/efa/
The push for responsibility awareness has increased amid updated rules which came into effect in September.
Among the new requirements is the need for openness about those involved in running academies.
Governance information must now feature prominently on institutions’ websites and include the names and relevant business interests of members, trustees and governors, along with an explanation of committee structure. In the letter to accounting officers, Mr Lauener writes that ‘the task becomes one of making sure the published information is both up to date and easily accessible’.
Another update requires officers to address instances in which those not appointed as a director or trustee end up controlling the board, compromising independence. Mr Lauener says the new guideline ‘makes clear that academy trusts must not have shadow directors or de facto trustees – if you think this situation may arise in your trust you should act to address it’.
There is also a broader reminder about managing the financial health of trusts. In context of ‘a period of challenging public finances’, accounting officers have been told: “Because of this it is more important than ever to make sure every pound is well spent to improve outcomes for the children and young people.”
“You will need to be bearing down on costs, being innovative about efficiencies (both with staff and non-staff costs), using benchmarking data to understand financial performance and ensuring trustees and the school leadership team have the right information and financial expertise to help in this task.”
The need for ‘good cash management’ has also been highlighted.
At Milsted Langdon, we can support academies in their financial responsibilities. To talk to our expert advisers, please contact us.