Heather O’Driscoll, Managing Director of North East chartered accountants and business advisers Waltons Clark Whitehill, specialises in supporting academies, but has found that many would benefit from additional forward planning of financial aspects of the business.
Having worked with a number of academies across the Tees Valley and County Durham, Heather said: “Making the break from local authority control to academy status is a big leap for many schools, and once they convert they are required to comply with the Academies Financial Handbook. Many have relied on local authority finance teams to produce financial information and even if they are still involved going forward, the requirements for academies are different.
“This is more of an issue for primary schools, as secondary schools tend to have financial controllers with more experience. One of the big issues that we have seen and heard about is that the planning of systems and procedures starts too late and often runs into the time when the academy is fully operational, which is far from ideal.”
Waltons Clark Whitehill is based in Hartlepool, working with a wide range of businesses to provide services including audit and annual accounts, bookkeeping, business planning, company secretarial, corporate finance, tax planning, payroll and VAT. Since the advent of academies, many school business managers have turned to Waltons Clark Whitehill for support.
Heather said: “Where there isn’t an experienced financial controller in place, it is important that the management take advice at an early opportunity to help get the finances in place for a smooth, organised start. This will ensure that reliable financial information will be in place to support those who run the academy in the educational aspects of the business.”