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ESFA issues a further letter to all Accounting Officers

The Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Eileen Milner, has once again written to Academy Trusts’ Accounting Officers (copying in all Chairs of Trustees) with an offer of thanks and an update on the financial management of trusts during COVID-19 and looking forward.

The letter aims to summarise all of the information available and provides some more guidance on what additional actions have been taken to support schools during these unprecedented times.

What is included within the letter?

  • Support packages for schools – A link to the recent announcement on the school’s catch-up fund which can be found here. Further details on the claim process have not yet been published.
  • School Resource Management Advisors (SRMAs) – The use of SRMAs for additional support but noting that their reports will now not include follow-up requirements.
  • Academies Financial Handbook – As we covered in our recent webinar (which can be viewed here) this includes changes to the Executive Team, governance, internal scrutiny and external audits.
  • Academies Accounts Direction – The new direction with guidance on how a trust’s financial statements should be prepared and the changes including the new Carbon Impact requirements.
  • Financial Management Good Practice – A link to all of the ESFA guides including operating as a going concern, choosing external auditors, risk management and internal scrutiny amongst others.

As things slowly get back to the new ‘normal’, the letter also sets out the basis for resuming all ESFA activities, from audit & assurance visits (which is noted as recommencing in the autumn term) through to interventions and regulatory notices.

School Resource Management Self-Assessment Tool (SRMSAT)

This tool is an annual submission requirement for all academy trusts however, not on the current ‘name and shame’ list. You’ll be pleased to hear that the annual submission has been deferred from November to March. The new deadline (to note for the diary) is 15th March 2021.

All other financial returns (not previously deferred) now remain in place with the next return being the Land & Buildings Collection Tool (LBCT) which opens on 6th October with a deadline of 10th November 2020. As previously advised, all the financial reporting deadlines for the year ended 31st August 2020 remain the same.

Fraud Risk Management

Interestingly, the letter reminds Accounting Officers about the potential of increased fraud during challenging times and to remain vigilant. The link to the ESFA guide to reducing fraud is always worth a read and includes a helpful checklist for trusts. You can view the guide here.

A full copy of the letter can be read here.

If you have any questions in relation to the above please contact a member of the team below