Academy trusts to be named and shamed for late and missed financial returns

The government will name and shame academy trusts which submit their financial returns late or fail to send them off from next September.

Eileen Milner, the new head of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, has written to academy trusts to warn them of strict new rules.

From September 2018, of trusts with two or more late or missed returns will be published on a list on the ESFA’s website.

Academy trusts have to submit several different financial returns every academic year.

The first of these, their financial statements, an auditor’s management letter and an accounts submission coversheet online form, are all due in by December 31. The deadline for the return of the full accounts is January 19, and trusts then have to submit a budget forecast return outturn by May 18, and a budget forecast return by July 27.

Failure to submit any two of these returns by the requisite deadlines will now see a trust included in the online list, and future lists will be published every September based on the preceding years’ returns, Milner said.

However, the government has decided not to penalise schools for late or failed submissions during the first round of reporting for the land and buildings collection tool, which came into effect this year and had a deadline of October 31.

This decision was made to allow trusts to adapt to the new process, Milner said.

“It is essential that we receive returns on time in order for the ESFA to maintain its assurance to Parliament through the Sector Annual Report and Accounts. Missing or late returns have a detrimental impact on the accuracy of reporting and also our ability to provide timely support to trusts with potential financial issues,” she went on.

“In the interest of fairness to those trusts who consistently submit returns on time, we are therefore now taking a firmer stance on non-compliance with the submission date set out.”