The imperatives for further development of your academy
If you’re at the stage where you’re seeking to take your academy to the next level, then you’ll be affected by the Commission’s three imperatives for the further development of academies. These imperatives are:
- A forensic focus on teaching and its impact on pupils’ learning. In reality what this means, is consistently working to make sure that teaching and learning go hand-in-hand, enabling you to achieve the high levels of success you insist upon.
- Making sure that your academy is fair in its actions and equally accessible to children and young people from all backgrounds. It goes without saying that an academy that is open to all is an academy that stands a better chance of integrating, developing and maturing to the next phase.
- An ongoing demonstration of accountability to parents, pupils and stakeholders. Making sure that governors are and remain accountable across the board will ensure that moral and professional requirements for now and the future are built on solid foundations.
The need to promote the public benefit
Promoting the public benefit of your academy is not only one of your obligations under charity law, but it is an ideal way to move your academy on to the next phase of its development. Things like promoting the availability of your academy’s facilities for community use and getting involved in outreach work with local primary and secondary schools as well as providing Year 12 students with volunteer work placements will all help reinforce your importance with, and in, the community at large. Adding public events, such as involvement in sporting and arts activities and charity work to this list will help get your academy even more noticed and in the longer term will help elevate it to the status you desire.
The development of the audit committee
The audit committee of an academy, once again, is non-negotiable, but as your academy matures, the audit committee offers opportunities for further development. Making sure that this committee stays fresh, with new skills, innovative ideas and motivation will help move the academy through each of the different stages of its lifestyle.
EFA visits and how to avoid them
The threat of an Education Funding Agency (EFA) visit is sufficient to keep most academies on their toes. A process that can be long and drawn out, from a management point of view, an EFA visit is best avoided if at all possible. Because more and more academies seem to be being targeted for EFA visits for the specific purpose of validating their Financial Management and Governance Evaluation (FMGE) return, a really sensible way to avoid a visit would be to make sure that you avoid the need to make a return.
The place to start is with your audited financial statements. Because FMGE returns are the trigger for many EFA visits, it’s ideal if you can avoid the need to complete an FMGE return all together. Recent revelations from the EFA have suggested that academies that provided timely audited financial statements for the year 2011/2012 won’t be required to complete an FMGE return. Assuming this statement continues to be applied during the current year, this is a great way to avoid an EFA visit.
If it’s too late to avoid the need to submit an FMGE return and you’re facing one now, here are just some of the areas that the EFA seem to be most interested in. They seem particularly keen to make sure that:
- Terms of reference have been formally approved by governors.
- Pay increases have been formally approved by the governing body.
- Finance regulations have been finalised and approved.
- Risk management procedures, practice and recording are up to scratch.
- Your board of governors is sufficiently financially aware.
- Your long term planning is evident and effective.
- You have a gift and hospitality register.
- You have a succession plan for your governors; that your current governors have considered Key Performance Indicators and that there is a continuity/disaster plan in place.
Being aware of transactions that need Secretary of State Approval
As your academy grows and develops, the likelihood is that you’ll be carrying out more varied transactions, and as you do so, it’s important to be aware of which transactions need Secretary of State Approval. The list you see below is in addition to any suspicion of theft or fraud that has led to loss (over a specified value) and are:
- Short term borrowing and medium to longer term loans.
- Guarantees, indemnities and letters of comfort.
- The write off of any debts or liabilities owed to the academy (over a specified value).
- Ex-gratia payments.
- Freehold sales and purchases.
- Any leasehold tenancy agreements for periods in excess of 3 years.
- The disposal of any asset for which a grant of over £20,000 was made.
- Budgeting for a deficit for the forthcoming academic year.
Using grants for their correct purpose
While academies have an immense amount of freedom, there is of course the need to constantly stick to the rules, particularly in respect of the use of grants for their specified purpose. Often as any business matures, the temptation is to deviate ever so slightly from the regulations, but adhering to agreed spending of grant funding is something you should be particularly strict about.
If your academy is currently in, or moving into a mature phase, and you’re keen to take it to the next level, why not get in touch to see what we can bring to your academy table? We’re here to help and would be delighted to have a completely no obligation chat with you.