Financial self-assessment check for academies to become mandatory

Academy trusts will be required to complete an annual finance check-up as part of the government’s push to level up accountability across all school types.

The self-assessment tool helps trusts check the strength of their financial and resource management systems. The move to make it mandatory, at the end of this academic year, will ensure “there is no area in which we are requiring a weaker accountability of academies than of maintained schools”, the government said.

The announcement was made as part of the launch of the Department for Education’s consultation on accountability in maintained schools, and comes after a stinging critique on the self-evaluation of academy trusts from Ofsted earlier this week.

Maintained schools must annually complete the schools financial value standard, comprising of 29 questions on resource management, finances and governance, to help give assurances to local authorities that they have secure financial management in place.

From next year, it will also include a dashboard to allow schools compare themselves with other schools on a range of measures.

A similar tool was launched for academy trusts in September, but was not made mandatory. Last August, the DfE’s school resource management strategy said the government would “consider in time” whether the tool  should be a requirement for academy trusts “so that all schools are holding themselves to the same standards”.

In an investigation into the benefits, challenges and functions of academy trusts, published on Monday, Ofsted criticised “weak” self-assessment at trusts which it said are “limited” in assessing their own performance.

In a commentary accompanying the report, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said if the DfE will not allow it to inspect academy trusts then it should publish a framework that trusts can use to self-assess their performance, with a particular focus on their impact on education.

The self-assessment tool asks trusts to answer a series of questions on governance, budget setting, the trust’s financial strategy, staffing, value for money and protecting public money.

According to the DfE website, it can help assure trusts they are meeting the right standards, as well as identify areas for change to ensure resources are used to support teaching.