ESFA Auditors Conference September 2018

Our Academies team share their experience at the recent ESFA Auditors Conference…

We attended the ESFA Auditors Conference at the Birmingham N.E.C. We heard about ESFA’s areas of focus and concern as we approach another academy audit season.

Key points from the conference

  • A key message throughout the conference was that of trust accountability. Keynote speeches by ESFA CEO, Eileen Milner and Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the School System, noted the expectation that trusts would ‘account for every penny.’ They also reiterated the need for financial accountability to sit alongside good educational results.
  • The conference addressed the increasing responsibilities of trust board. ESFA made clear their expectation of strong governance at all trusts and that they expect this to prevent financial failure. Boards are encourage to challenge academy leadership teams and hold them accountable.
  • A number of speakers noted the importance of trusts addressing all points raised in the management letter. ESFA expects all trusts to take swift action to address points raised, and would consider any points not addressed to be a ‘red flag.’ The 2017/18 AAR will require trusts to declare the number of management letter points raised during the audit and how many points from prior years’ management letters have not been addressed.
  • ESFA consider internal assurance findings to be as important as the points raised in management letters. There is also an expectation that trusts will swiftly address these points.
  • ESFA clarified their stance in respect of trust’s purchasing alcohol – an area that has long been contentious, and confirmed that they do not expect this to take place under any circumstances.
  • Reports of compliance across the academy sector were generally good. 93.7% of 2017 financial statements were submitted on time, along with 92% of AAR’s. However, ESFA would like to see this increase further. ESFA will be ‘naming and shaming’ non-compliant trusts on an annual basis.
  • Lord Agnew was keen to emphasize that well run trusts, with good governance in place, and good exam results will face little interference from ESFA.

If you have any queries, please contact Beth Ramsden.