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Academies Financial Handbook 2020 - Are You Complying with the New Obligations?

on Wednesday, 08 July 2020.

A new Academies Financial Handbook (the Handbook) was published late last month and takes effect on 1 September. Readers will be pleased to know that this year's Handbook sticks to the 2019 structure and so will be familiar.

Baroness Berridge sets out several key themes in her introduction as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System including a focus on internal scrutiny, effective governance which places increasing importance on the members of an academy trust, and the school resource management self-assessment tool.

The checklist below is intended to summarise the key changes to the Academies Financial Handbook and to help you comply with the new obligations which it contains.


Going concern

(1.14, 2.5, 2.8)

Is your finance committee and Board being provided with the right level of financial information to ensure the Board can satisfy itself that the academy trust is a going concern and financially sustainable?

Employees as members


Are any of your members employees of the academy trust? From 1 March 2021 there is an absolute prohibition on this, even if an academy trust's articles of association permit this.

Keeping members informed


How is your Board keeping the academy trust's members informed of trust business so that they can be satisfied that the Board is exercising effective governance?

The Clerk


Has your Board appointed a Clerk? This is now a mandatory requirement and no longer a 'should'.

Does your Clerk have the skills and knowledge to ensure the Board works in compliance with the relevant regulatory framework?

Have you looked into the Department for Education’s programme for developing your Clerk?

Executive Team

The Accounting Officer and Chief Financial Officer

(1.26 and 1.36)

Is your Accounting Officer and your Chief Financial Officer employed by the academy trust?

In exceptional circumstances where an academy trust proposes to appoint an Accounting Officer of Chief Financial Officer otherwise than as an employee, ESFA consent must be obtained in advance.

Qualifications of the CFO

(1.37 and 1.38)

Does your Chief Financial Officer hold suitable qualifications and memberships for the role?

Particularly for academy trusts with over 3,000 pupils filling a CFO vacancy, have you considered the range of qualifications available from professional bodies that candidates might have?

Greater Controls and Transparency



In ensuring controls are in place to manage and oversee assets, are you maintaining a fixed asset register?

Pupil number projections


Is your Board reviewing projections termly?

High pay


Are you publishing an extract from the previous year's accounts showing the number of employees whose benefits exceed £100,000 in bands of £10,000 in a readily accessible form?



Academy trust funds must not be used to purchase alcohol (except where it is to be used in religious services).

Risk register


Is your Board retaining ultimate oversight of the academy trust's risk register?

Is your Board reviewing the risk register at least annually?



Are your whistleblowing procedures published on the academy trust's website?

Audit and risk

(3.6 to 3.8)

Has your Board established a committee which has remit for audit and risk which meets at least three times each year?

School resource management self-assessment tool


Have you completed the SRMSA tool and submitted your checklist to the ESFA?

Internal Scrutiny

Non-financial controls


Does your programme of internal scrutiny provide assurance on financial and non-financial controls?

Internal audit

(3.17 and 3.20)

Internal audit cannot be performed by an academy trust's external auditor.

Annual Accounts

Audit and risk committee


Does your audit and risk committee have responsibility for the following in connection with oversight of external audit findings?

  • Reviewing the external auditor's plan.

  • Reviewing the annual report and accounts.

  • Reviewing the auditor's findings and actions taken by the academy trust in response.

  • Assessing the effectiveness and resources of the external auditor including the auditor's sector expertise and their understanding of the academy trust and its activities.

  • Producing an annual report of the committee's conclusions to advise the Board.

If you would like to receive information on how we can support your trust with its corporate governance requirements, please contact Jaime Hobday (07467 220 552) or Chloe Brunton (07920 281 889) in our Academies team. Alternatively, complete the form below.

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