“Financial irregularity” is the term being used for allegations made against academies and free schools with alarming regularity over the last three years regarding their compliance with the strict financial codes of conduct and indeed laws which govern them.
Since 2013 there have been 58 allegations made against schools that The Department for Education (DfE) refuses to name. Several of these have resulted in high profile Notices to Improve being issued to Academy Trusts, many of which have hit the press and caused embarrassment and uncertainty. Often those Trusts have also had their growth plans put on hold or even been forced to shed academies as a result of non-compliance. It is not the kind of problem or PR any organisation needs.
The news comes as the DfE released figures relating to budget which resulted in a call for an ‘urgent examination of accountability’ in the system. With free schools opening more regularly than ever, (252 already open with 98 more confirmed to be on the way and plans for up to another 500 in the offing) even more allegations could be on the way in the upcoming years unless due diligence is followed.
A DfE spokesman talking to the Observer said “Academies operate under a strict system of oversight and accountability – more robust than in council-run schools — ensuring any issues are identified quickly and we can take swift action. The Education Funding Agency keeps a close eye on academy finances and is well-placed to intervene on the rare occasions it is needed. “
However, the number of Notices to Improve handed out by the EFA on the department’s behalf indicates there is still a problem which many Trusts are simply not addressing.
Speaking to the Observer, Labour MP Gareth Thomas, a former teacher, called the research “deeply worrying” and says the system in place needs to be urgently reviewed.
“These figures reveal a disturbing lack of proper controls and underline the continuing concerns about the lack of accountability of free schools and academies. A tough audit regime is now overdue to ensure the taxpayer gets value for money and standards of these schools are raised.”
It grows ever more important to track, manage and evidence all aspects of work carried out within them, especially when it comes to budget allocation across multiple school run from a central hub. For this reason it is vital to use tools that support cloud-based operation. Handsam are here to help you prove compliance, produce diligent audit trails and evidence adherence to the regulations across all of your sites, no matter what the size of your trust is. It really could not be simpler.
Using Handsam’s online systems for Governance all necessary actions are prompted and then tracked within the Handsam Cloud automatically. Should you ever need to, you can recall documents and a record of activity (who did what and when) within seconds, no matter where you are accessing them from. The system also allows you to run exception reports and to rank your academies according to performance in key areas, allowing you to reward good performers and intervene at an early stage in those who need support.
For more on the Handsam Governance system, please visit Handsam.co.uk or contact one of our friendly team by emailing email@example.com or phoning 03332 070737. You can now also contact our team on twitter @handsamltd.