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Assurance for academies

Buzzacott's third feature takes a look at assurance and what it means for the academies

Posted by Hannah Oakman | December 12, 2016 | People, policy, politics

The Government launched its White Paper in March 2016, which has been the subject of much interest in its aim to drive every school to be an academy. How far that particular aim is driven remains to be seen, but the White Paper does continue along a path of radical change that all schools, currently within or outside the academy movement should take heed of. 

More than half of academies are already part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) with many more set to form or join MATs. The new language is ‘supported autonomy, alignment of funding, control, responsibility and accountability in one place, and institutional collaboration’. The White Paper signals a ‘school-led’ system where improvement is delivered by effective education leaders and every school is an academy.

Senior management and trustees should be familiar with the White Paper’s contents, which should form the backdrop to academies strategic planning. 

Whether you are in a single academy trust (SAT) or an MAT, you work in a complex statutory framework. This update covers some of the latest news on what is happening in the sector, including updates on key financial, compliance and assurance issues and helps signpost you to information relevant to your areas of accountability.

Buzzacott accountants have produced a series of short articles proving an overview of the academy sector.

Read on to read the third in our series, based around assurance:

Assurance

One of the positive aspects of a significant corporate governance failing is the opportunity it brings for us all to look at the assurance measures we have in place. In April 2016 we published an insight into the failings at Kids Company and we take this opportunity to remind academy trustees to consider the lessons learned from that failing and to ask yourself whether:

• You regularly consider the key risks faced by your academy trust and ways in which they might be mitigated and controlled. Is your SAT or MAT’s operating model sound and does it deliver a sustainable financial position?

• You have a clear, considered, and realistic reserves policy setting out your ideal level of free reserves against which you monitor regularly.

• You talk to the trust’s auditor at least once a year and create an opportunity for trustees and the auditor to meet privately without the senior leadership team.

• You challenge effectively the principal and academy senior leadership team.

• You consider the content of reports to trustees and contribute to the development of actions arising.

• Your board has an appropriate breadth of skills and experience, including trustees that fully understand the academy sector.

• You understand the trust’s financial position and can challenge whether expenditure is being applied in furtherance of the trust’s charitable objectives, whether it is targeted

in the most appropriate areas and demonstrates value for money.

• You understand how to protect the academy’s reputation through robust complaints handling, safeguarding and investigation practices.

To find out more about Buzzacott, visit their website or email them at enquiries@buzzacott.co.uk.

The first feature in the series was on The Funding landscape and their second was on Compliance for academies

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