Friday, July 16, 2010

Qualified accountants in academies – an optional extra?

Today the magazine Education Executive reports on Michael Gove’s reassurances to prospective academies that they do not have to have a qualified accountant on their staff:

“The Academies Finance Handbook currently recommends that finance directors of academies are qualified accountants because of the additional demands compared with maintained schools, in terms of preparation of accounts," Gove wrote. "However, there is no actual rule that there must be."

Gove said it was "perfectly possible" for the bursar of the previous school, "if suitable in other ways", to become the academy finance director. "An effective member of the senior management team is much more important than technical knowledge of charity and company accounts," he said. Gove also pointed out that such technical expertise could be bought in if necessary.

I would not necessarily disagree with that. (If I did, I would have to declare an interest: I am a Chartered Accountant who works with academies.) However, I would add that what can be most dangerous are the unknown unknowns – you do not always know when you need to call in the “technical experts”.

An understanding of company law and charity accounting is essential – bursars will need that if they are to navigate risk and avoid constantly calling upon accountancy firms.

Where schools become academies, they are entering a brave new world – one of threats as well as opportunities.

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