Church academy warned over finances

A Church of England academy in Pontefract has been served with a financial notice to improve, after failing to balance its books.

St Giles Church of England Academy, which is a single-academy trust, received an “intervention visit” from the Education and Skills Funding Agency in May, to investigate concerns about its financial statements for 2016-17.

The primary school was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2015 and serves around 250 pupils.

But the visit revealed “numerous material weaknesses in the accounting practices, internal control systems and governance of the trust”.

“The number and serious nature of the issues identified give cause for concern and this does not provide the ESFA with assurance of good financial management and governance within the trust,” Mike Pettifer, the ESFA’s director of the academies and maintained schools, wrote in a letter to the chair of governors.

The letter did acknowledge that some changes had been made “to strengthen accounting and financial controls”.

However, the trust had failed to submit its 2016-17 financial statements by December 31, achieve a balanced budget, or demonstrate adequate financial management and governance.

The trust now must develop and implement an action plan that demonstrates improvements to its governance. It must also submit a recovery plan that explains how the trust will return to “a surplus budget position” in a reasonable timeframe and prove that “every possible economy is being made”, as well as moving to a new funding agreement.

Monthly management accounts must also be sent to the ESFA that show income and expenditure.

A skills audit is also needed, to show that board members have the right mix of skills and experience to “oversee the financial recovery” and ensure “value for money in the trust’s operations”.

The trust was approached for comment.