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Late Financial Returns?

The Education Sector is a heavily regulated one that requires the submission of numerous returns, including financial returns such as Financial Statements, Accounts Return, Budget forecast return outturn and Budget forecast return.

All academies know submitting these financial returns on time is a requirement of the Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) – but nowhere in the AFH does it mention the consequences for missing the deadlines. What is the worst that could happen? Well, according to the ESFA, it is that your academy trust’s name will be on a list that is published and put out into the public domain. 

The chief executive of the ESFA first wrote to all academy trusts on 13th December 2017 stating the ESFA was changing its approach to non-compliance with financial returns and “will be publishing a list of trusts who are late, or do not submit, two or more of the annual financial returns”. This was reinforced by a second letter dated 5th March 2018, informing them that the list of non-compliant trusts for 2017/18 academic year would be published in September 2018.

If we put aside the fact that the list was late in being published – 6th November 2018 as opposed to September 2018 – what does it tell us? The list contains the names of 88 academy trusts. One submitted all four  returns late. 11 trusts submitted three returns late, the remaining 76 submitted two late returns each. 

There is no discernible pattern, these 88 trusts represent all different types and compositions of trusts – primary, secondary, mixed, rural, urban, small and large. It raises the question of what the point is of publishing this list? Only time will tell as this is the first time they have published the list. It will be interesting to see how many of the 88 are on next year’s list – having been included once, will trusts be wary of being included a second time? Will the trusts on the list experience other negative consequences as a result of being listed, such as complaints from parents or stories in the local press that damage their reputation?  Should next year’s list be much shorter and not contain the same names, will the list be determined to have been a success?

If your trust is struggling to meet the deadlines for the financial returns, we recommend that you avoid ending up on this list. Schools’ Choice are here to  help.  We have a dedicated team with a wealth of experience in compiling and submitting financial returns so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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