New Release: Academies Financial Handbook

  • 21st June 2021

The new Handbook has been released and is effective from 1 September 2021.

Baroness Berridge’s foreword sets out a distinct change in the purpose of this document by emphasising the importance of the non-financial aspects making this a much more holistic document. This is further demonstrated by the change in name from ‘Academies Financial Handbook’ to ‘Academy Trust Handbook’. This is not surprising given the recent shift in internal scrutiny to cover both financial and non-financial controls and the Handbook specifically mentions duties around safeguarding, health and safety and estates management.

The changes are set out in pages 9 and 10 of the document which can be found here, and we have summarised some of the key points below:

  • Trusts must ensure that members are not subject to a direction made under section 128 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 which prevents them from taking part in academy trust management. If these checks have not already been carried out, please make sure this is done and also carried out before any new members are appointed.
  • Trusts should always ensure there are places reserved for parents in their governance structure. For a single trust there should be at least two places on the main board and for Multi Academy Trust’s there should be at least two places on the main board or the local governing bodies.
  • From 1 March 2022 a newly appointed senior executive leader (usually the CEO/Accounting Officer) can only be a trustee if appointed by members, the senior executive leader agrees and it is permitted by Trust articles. There is a strong preference that no other employees should serve as a trustee.
  • There is much more emphasis on external governance reviews carried out, with the Department’s strong preference that this should be conducted routinely. Don’t forget that an annual assessment of the board’s composition should be carried out annually, although this can be carried out internally.
  • If a CEO/Accounting Officer is planning to resign or retire, the board should approach their RSC in advance to discuss their structure and options.
  • There has been a change in terminology to change the name of the ‘Clerk’ to the ‘Governance Professional’.
  • There is a reminder that all academy trust members, trustees and individuals on any committees, including Local Governing Bodies, are required to have an enhanced DBS check.
  • Confirmation that the written scheme of delegation should be reviewed annually or if there is a change in management or organisational structure.
  • A reminder that several documents must be made available for public inspection, such as the agenda of all trustee and committee meetings, approved minutes of each meeting and any reports or documents considered at the meetings. Certain confidential items can be excluded.
  • There is confirmation that the chair of the audit and risk committee should not be the same person as the chair of the finance committee, if these are separate committees. The chair of trustees should also not be chair of the audit and risk committee
  • Trusts should now retender their external audit contract at least every five years.
  • Prior approval must be obtained for staff severance payments of £100k or more and/or where the employees earns over £150k.

If you have any queries on any of the changes or we can help with your internal or external processes, please do not hesitate to contact us.

All data and figures referred to in our news section are correct at the date of publishing and should not be relied upon as still current.