I accept that as accounting officer of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust, I am responsible and accountable for ensuring that the academy trust delivers good value in the use of public resources. I am aware of the guide to academy value for money statements published by the Education Funding Agency and understand that value for money refers to the educational and wider societal outcomes achieved in return for the taxpayer resources received.
I set out below how I have ensured that the academy trust’s use of its resources has provided good value for money during the academic year.
A review of support services, including finance was completed last year. Subsequently there have been a number of finance and other personnel changes, including at management level and the reporting environment is much improved to the extent that auditors consider our control environment to be in the upper quartile. These improvements allow rigorous monitoring of our financial performance.
Each academy has a business manager, who is responsible to the academy principal for monitoring the academies’ expenditure in the year against the approved budget, in addition to the supervision of all of the non-academic staff.
During the year the scheme of delegation was revised to ensure tighter controls and the finance policies and procedures improved.
The Federation Executive team review the trust monthly management accounts, balance sheet and cash flow to monitor performance against budget and ensure value for money.
Financial governance and oversight is good with accountant governors on both our Audit and Finance committees which, in addition, contain a number of governors with significant commercial experience.
We have introduced a new procurement policy as part of our overall scheme of delegation and internal financial regulations. This procurement policy has significantly enhanced the robustness of the procurement process by ensuring appropriate procurement processes and controls are in place for expenditure at different levels.
Given our expectation that over coming years we must continue to try and achieve more with less money our focus on value for money must increase further. We have made some important advances in our consideration of value for money in a range of areas:
Our much improved financial monitoring provides the basic tools for assessing value for money;
We have re-structured our primary learning support provision and are currently re-structuring secondary pastoral support to ensure greater impact for our resources;
We have outsourced our catering function to further improve value for money;
Our procurement procedures have been significantly tightened over the last few years.
Our priorities in the coming period are:
To develop robust five year financial plans for each of our schools to ensure that they remain sustainable and continue to deliver a high quality education;
To access robust financial benchmarking information, which unfortunately has ceased to be as readily available over the last few years, but needs to be an important element of our financial planning;
To develop further the practice that we have for determining the level of teaching staff we need to an equivalently robust method for all our staff;
Continue to improve the procurement process to get best value from all of our purchases and get full advantage from the trust’s purchasing power.
Our overall financial strategy remains to ensure that expenditure patterns are governed by the needs of our children, which are substantially to have good quality, well qualified teachers and learning support assistants working effectively with appropriate up-to-date resources in well maintained, fit-for-purpose accommodation. The large proportion of our expenditure is therefore on staff, but we need to ensure that an appropriate balance with other expenditure is maintained. Our target for this balance is that staffing expenditure should be no more than 70% of the overall budget.
As part of our compliance in line with the new financial handbook for academies, the trust has established an Audit Committee formed of directors with extensive governance experience or a professional accounting qualification and in addition a co-opted governor with significant experience of risk management in the commercial sector. This has oversight of both internal and external audit and is responsible for supervision of the risk management policies and procedures.
In September 2013, the board adopted a new risk management methodology, risk map and controls, recommended by the Audit Committee which:
Identifies responsibility for risk management activities at each level of the organisation
Provides a framework for effective coordination of risk management activities across the organisation.
Provides a basis of risk management training programmes across the organisation.
Ensures timely reporting on risks and risk management activities throughout the organisation.
Ensures that no significant new projects are initiated or commitments are taken on, without due consideration of the risks that arise from those projects or commitments.
All of the internal audits commissioned reported that the existing processes provided reasonable assurance that the controls were working as planned. The auditors made a series of recommendations, all of which have been or will be implemented to strengthen the control environment further.
There have been significant improvements in the educational results of our primary schools across the trust. Three of our four primary phases replaced predecessor schools which were either in Ofsted category or below floor target or both and they have shown significant improvements. The proportion of children reaching a good level of development at the end of the reception year has increased in all our schools: their results were between 12 and 28 percentage points above the national average. The proportion of children passing the year 1 phonics test also improved at all our schools, with results now between 11 and 16 percentage points above the national average. The proportion of children attaining the expected level in reading, writing and maths at key stage 1 has improved in all the schools and is now above the national average in all these subjects in all three schools. There have also been improvements in reading, writing and maths attainment at key stage 2 in all the schools. Their position in relation to the national average reflects how long they have been part of the trust: at Hatcham Temple Grove, our longest established primary phase, results now exceed the national average by a wide margin; at Crayford and Knights Academy, attainment is now at or about the national average for the first time.
At Hatcham College and Knights Academy there was a small drop in GCSE results, as was the case nationally. As a result, on the 5+A*-C including English and maths measure, Hatcham College’s results remain above the national average and Knights Academy’s results have moved above the national average for the first time. Analysis using the new performance indicators that will be introduced from 2016 shows that the average grade achieved by students (attainment 8) increased at both schools, as did the progress from KS2 (progress 8). This was above average in both schools, significantly so at Hatcham College.
At both schools the VI form results improved, with an increase in the number of A level entries resulting in A* or B grades. At Hatcham this is 6 percentage points higher than the national average and at Knights it has matched the national average for the first time. There has been an improvement in the average UCAS point score for each student, indicating an improvement of about half an A level grade on average per student at both schools. As usual, all students leaving the schools went on to further or higher education, training or employment, none were NEET, and many are attending courses at Russell Group universities.
The trust has undertaken a range of activities to improve educational outcomes and value for money. Three of the most significant were:
Supporting Knights Academy following its Ofsted judgement of serious weaknesses. The trust has undertaken a range of measures to deal with the issues identified by Ofsted through a formal statement of action. For example the pastoral support function in the school has been reorganised, staff have been provided with training on behaviour management and alterations have been made to the playground space. As a result of these measures the school received positive feedback from Ofsted following its inspector’s most recent monitoring visits.
Improving the monitoring of behaviour. The trust has developed a standardised approach to monitoring and recording student behaviour. This provides management information about the amount of good and bad behaviour in each school and the number of behaviour incidents. This data has enabled the leadership teams at all three schools to evaluate the behaviour in the school more accurately and to target their actions to improve behaviour more precisely. The impact has been greatest at Knights Academy, where the most recent Ofsted monitoring visit recognised the marked improvement in behaviour at the school, noting that serious incidents were now rare.
Reviewing the structure of learning support staff in our primary phases. During the year a review of learning support staff in the primary phases was undertaken, informed by academic research findings about the effectiveness of classroom support. This cost-neutral reorganisation has allowed the primary schools to create new higher level teaching assistant posts, which give them additional capacity for providing individual and small group interventions for students whose progress is below expectations. This structure was shown to have a very significant impact on progress and attainment when it was trialled at Hatcham Temple Grove.
Academy Trust Accounting Officer
Location: Haberdashers' Aske's Federation,Pepys Road,London, SE14 5SF