ESFA Annual Report
ESFA has published its Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31st March 2020.
Letter to Academy Trust Accounting Officers
Eileen Milner, chief executive of the ESFA, has written a letter to Accounting Officers (16 July 2020). This is a lengthy and important letter covering:
- COVID-19 support
- Academies Financial Handbook 2020
- Academies Accounts Direction
- Financial management good practice guides
- Financial returns for 2020/21
- Fraud risk management
- Health and Safety – Good Estates Management
- Academies sector annual report and accounts, which will set out the overall financial position of the sector and will be published before 1st July.
The letter also sets out the resumption of ESFA activities, specifically:
- ESFA audit and assurance visits – the current thinking is that financial management and governance reviews and funding audits will recommence towards the middle of the autumn term but that initially these will be done remotely. ESFA is about to begin health and safety risk assessments for the re-introduction of on-site assurance visits. They will only commence visits once they have completed the assessments satisfactorily and consulted appropriate stakeholders. When they recommence visits they will engage fully with trusts in advance.
- Intervention activities and regulatory notices: ESFA is recommencing intervention activities with trusts and, in line with this, will resume the issuing and publication of financial notices to improve. In line with section 4 of the updated investigation publishing policy, ESFA will be giving trusts 10 working days to offer any final comments on factual accuracy of FNtIs before publication.
- School resource management self-assessment tool: After consultation, ESFA is changing the date for submission of the annual SRMSAT from November to the following March to give you more time to complete it after the end of the academic year. The next return will be due by 15 March 2021. The feedback received is that this timing better aligns with trusts’ budgetary planning cycles.
Academy trust chair suitability checks – new guidance July 2020
Chairs of trust board must complete a suitability check with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) as soon as they are appointed. This is to comply with legislation and to keep children safe in education. To process a suitability check ESFA will need:
- information about your identity verified by a recognised professional, using the verification form on this page
- information confirming your right to work in the United Kingdom
- the outcome of an enhanced DBS check
- if you have lived outside of the UK, an overseas criminal records check or certificate of good character
When completing a suitability check ESFA will consider any further information, including where individuals are barred from teaching or the management of a school.
Academies Financial Handbook – September 2020
The Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) 2020 was published 23 June 2020. Please note the HTML version of the AFH 2020 will be updated on 1 September 2020, until this time the webpage will continue showing the AFH 2019 content.
Letter to academy trust accounting officers (April 2020)
Guidance on submitting audited financial statements (October 2019)
Letters to academy trusts about high pay (October 2019)
Letters sent from Eileen Milner, Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, to academy chairs of trustees about high pay.
Letter to academy trust accounting officers (July 2019)
Letter sent from Eileen Milner, Chief Executive of the Education Skills Funding Agency, to academy trusts in July 2019.
Academies Financial Handbook (July 2019)
The ESFA recently published the Academies Financial Handbook which comes into effect in September 2019.
- Executive pay is once again highlighted, with CST’s principles for determining executive pay signposted in the AFH;
- A risk register is now mandated at section 2.36 and there is additional information about maintaining internal scrutiny over controls and risk, including the role of audit committee and a new requirement to send an annual internal scrutiny report to the ESFA (section 3);
- There is more information on whistle-blowing requirements at sections 2.41 and 2.46;
- There is increased emphasis and additional clarification on the reporting and approval of related party transactions (section 5); and
- There is significantly more on the Secretary of State’s powers of direction, with reference to the ESFA’s work with the Charity Commission and the Insolvency Service (section 6).
Academies accounts direction 2018 to 2019 (April 2019)
This Academies Accounts Direction 2018 to 2019 (hereafter referred to as Accounts Direction) sets out the requirements, and provides guidance, for academy trusts in preparing their annual report and financial statements for accounting periods ending on 31 August 2019. The document also provides relevant guidance for academy trusts’ auditors.
Academy trust related party transactions guidance (March 2019)
From Monday 1 April 2019, the ESFA introduces a new policy where academy trusts must declare a related party transaction before they agree it with your supplier. You must also seek approval from ESFA before you agree any related party transactions over £20,000.
The ESFA has published academy trust related party transactions guidance. This has information about what you need to do before completing the online form.
Introducing the reporting requirement does not change the scope of what is deemed a related party transaction.
The principles applying to related party transactions can be seen in section 3.10 of The Academies Financial Handbook.
The Financial Reporting Council’s FRS 102 The Financial Reporting Standard defines what is meant by a related party and what needs to be disclosed in financial statements. The Charity Commission’s Statement of Recommended Practice provides additional useful information.
Letter to academy trusts (March 2019)
Letter from Eileen Milner, chief executive of Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), to chair of trustees, accounting officers and chief financial officers of academy trusts.
The letter includes important information about arrangements for academy trust financial returns to the end of 2019.
Common themes arising from ESFA’s assurance work in 2017 to 2018 (March 2019)
This briefing note provides an overview of the key assurance findings from the ESFA assurance year 2017 to 2018, including the review of academy trust financial statements, academy funding audits and financial management and governance returns (FMGS).
Academy trust guide to reducing fraud
Information to help academy trusts manage the risk of fraud and report instances of fraud to the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
Academy trust financial management good practice guides
This suite of financial management good practice guides covers:
- operating an academy trust as a going concern
- choosing an external auditor for an academy trust
- academy trust deficit recovery
- academy trust risk management
- leasing guidance for academy trusts
- academy trust management accounting
These guides do not replace or modify any requirements set out in the Academies Financial Handbook and the Academies Accounts Direction. They aim to support trustees, accounting officers, and chief financial officers to develop good practice in your trust.