The government agency responsible for scrutinising academies' use of public money has relaxed a number of financial checks in light of the coronavirus crisis.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has today written to academy accounting officers, laying out the actions it is taking to "ease the burden" on trusts during the pandemic.
These include pausing routine audits and governance reviews; only issuing financial notices to improve "in the most critical circumstances"; and extending its normal deadlines for responding to safeguarding enquiries.
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Coronavirus crisis: Financial checks relaxed for academies
However, it reminded trusts that the framework of controls set out in the academies financial handbook "has never been more important".
The actions taken by the ESFA include:
- Stopping, pausing or deferring all but the most essential data collections and requests from academy trusts – so the requirements for the budget forecast return outturn (BFRO) no longer apply this year.
- Only issuing and publishing financial notices to improve in the most critical circumstances.
- Pausing the start of any new routine funding audits and financial management and governance (FMG) reviews covering, at least, the duration of the school closures.
- Not considering complaints about schools’ compliance with complaints and exclusions regulations at this time.
- Extending normal deadlines for responding to safeguarding enquiries.
Eileen Milner, ESFA chief executive, added that she wanted to "personally" thank accounting officers "for all you are doing in these challenging and uncertain times".
"The situation is unprecedented, to say the least, but I remain confident that we, together, can work through things and ensure that everything returns to something approaching normal when we are in a position to do so," she said.