Saturday, June 29, 2013

A revised Academies Financial Handbook from September 2013

The Education Funding Agency at the Department for Education have published a revised version of the Academies Financial Handbook (pdf here). These Handbooks are like buses: you wait patiently for six year then two come along in less than 12 months.

The Handbook applies from September. As with the previous version, it applies to free schools and UTCs - which are both types of school constituted as academies.The DfE have usefully issued a companion At A Glance guide (the pdf is tricky to find but it is here). The Handbook is largely unchanged from the 2012. The At A Glance guide highlights the following changes:

  • improved information relating to the interlocking roles of trustees, directors and governors;
  • additional information on the role of the accounting officer;
  • clarification of the delegated limit for academy trusts to make staff severance payments;
  • clarification and relaxation of the delegated limits for trusts to dispose of fixed assets;
  • clarification and relaxation of the delegated limits for trusts to take up and grant leases;
  • additional information about Financial Notices to Improve;
  • emphasis of academy trusts’ duties in relation to payments to trustees;
  • decoupling of the annual value for money statement (announced in the 2012 Handbook) from academy trusts’ annual accounts, and replacement with a separate return;
  • introduction of the option for a multi-academy trust to pool its GAG to meet costs at any of its academies;
  • emphasis of academy trusts’ duties in relation to services provided by sponsors;
  • a change to the criteria for establishing an audit committee so that it focuses on the size, rather than the type, of academy trust;
  • confirmation that the appointment of a responsible officer is not mandatory;
  • the introduction of an annex summarising the requirements in the Handbook;
  • changes to formatting and cross-referencing, and the use of a navigation pane so that it is easier to move between key topics.

Interesting the U-turn on finance committees not acting as audit committees is formally incorporated into the Handbook. This is not highlighted in the At A Glance guide.