The issues faced by schools converting to academy status

Having been involved in the education sector for almost 30 years I have an invaluable insight into the challenges faced by schools wanting to become academies and the hurdles to overcome to achieve that ambition.

grahamwilson.gifBy Graham Wilson, partner at the Blackburn office of accountants and business advisors Beever and Struthers.

Schools making the transition can secure additional finance to improve their educational offering and be independent of local authority control, thereby allowing them to determine their own direction and to adapt their admissions policy and staff terms and conditions to meet the needs of the school.

Key elements of the conversion process for primary and secondary schools are:
  • appointment of a legal adviser to conduct the conversion process;
  • establishment of an academy trust – a separate and independent legal entity;
  • transfer of title to assets e.g. land and buildings, lease agreements and licences from the local authority to the new legal entity;
  • setting of a conversion date;
  • acknowledgement that all academies have a financial year end of 31 August compared to 31 Auguest for a local authority school, necessitating a change in budgeting and reporting deadlines;
  • appointment of an auditor;
  • finalisation of the school’s position with the local authority at the date of conversion;
  • a valuation of assets to be transferred – requiring either an independent valuation, an insurance valuation or a valuation by a valuer nominated by the Education Funding Agency;
  • a valuation by an actuary of a school’s share of the surplus/deficit on the Local Government Pension Scheme for support staff;
  • a potential change of accounting package to one designed for use by academies.
Perhaps the greatest challenges to be addressed are consultations with staff and the parents of pupils and, of course, securing final approval from the Department for Education.

As an approved partner of the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) we provide expertise to many schools looking to convert to academies and ongoing assistance to those that have converted. Our services include:

  • external audit – a robust audit focused on risk;
  • business support – preparation of management accounts and cashflow forecasts;
  • responsible officer/internal audit – supporting the governor appointed to this role or providing this service on behalf of the governing body;
  • teachers’ pension – undertaking the annual audit of teachers’ pension contributions;
  • payroll bureau services – including payroll processing and online filing;
  • business risk and governance – advice on gover-nance structure and risk management training;
  • HR – support and advice on employment law via our HR director;
  • tax and VAT advice.