Today’s news review looks at the publication of our annual accounts.
On Tuesday, 20 December, the Department published its annual accounts for 2015/16. This report sets out the expenditure and performance of the Department for Education, and includes the accounts of 2,910 academy trusts, encompassing 5,552 individual schools.
These were picked up by Schools Week and the TES, with both focusing on the National Audit Office (NAO) issuing an adverse opinion in relation to the accounts. However, the coverage does not fully reflect that the NAO rating is a result of the consolidation process not the individual accounts themselves. In fact, the NAO has said there are no material inaccuracies in individual academies’ accounts.
We recognise the challenges raised by the NAO and have developed a new format for the 2016/17 financial year.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Academies are subject to a rigorous system of accountability and oversight, tougher and more transparent than maintained schools. This is reflected in the NAO’s finding that there are no material inaccuracies in individual academies' statements. However, the consolidation of thousands of those accounts into the format required by parliament is one of the largest and most complex procedures of its kind.
All of these accounts are published individually by trusts ensuring they can be held to account by the department and the public.
We recognise the challenges with the current format and have developed a new methodology for the 2016/17 financial year, which the NAO has said will provide a solution to a number of these issues. With the Education Funding Agency’s rigorous oversight of the academy system and the expanding role of the Regional School Commissioner we are confident that the accountability system for the expanding academies programme is robust and fit for purpose.