Francis Clark has a long history of providing accountancy services and business advice to the education sector and was at the forefront of supporting numerous academies across the South West through the transition to Academy status and the constantly changing financial obligations that arise post-conversion.
We now support in excess of 90 academies throughout the region including Individual Academies, Multi Academy Trusts, University Technical Colleges and a Studio School.
Although academies can have different structures, they all share new financial challenges and responsibilities that conversion from local authority control brings.
Francis Clark has a team of highly accomplished specialists experienced in guiding schools through the conversion process and providing the effective financial management the new academy entities require.
The transition process
- Selecting the most effective structure (Single and Multi Academy Trusts, Umbrella Trusts, Free Schools, University Technical Colleges, Alternative Provision Academies, Special Schools, Studio and Faith Schools)
- Establishing the Academy Trust as a Company
- New banking arrangements (the ability to receive funds)
- Preparing to be the new employers of all staff including T.U.P.E arrangements
- Transfer of existing contracts, licenses and other agreements
- Property transfer
- Transfer/creation of new insurances
- Managing existing pension schemes and/or auto enrolment
In addition academies will need support in taking over all the services previously provided by the Local Education Authority including HR, payroll administration, admissions policy, pupil/student welfare.
- Compliance with ‘financial management and governance self-assessment’ (FMGS)
- Annual audit & statutory accounts
- Assistance with Whole of Government reporting
- Budgeting & management reporting
- Advice on implementing and maintaining new financial systems
- Payroll bureau
- VAT & tax compliance restructuring, federation, collaboration and merger
- Corporate Finance
- Advice on property matters
Francis Clark supports the Accounting Officer with on-going business advice to ensure the Academy Trusts that we advise run efficiently and cost-effectively while taking advantage of all the opportunities open to them. In addition, we act as a source for the latest developments in academies including updates on regulation and compliance.
Further Education Colleges
We provide external audit services to the Further Education Sector, supported by our full range of advisory services, including tax, grants, corporate finance, pensions and renewables. We do not currently offer internal audit services.
We approve of the SFA/EFA definition of our role as ‘Financial Statements Auditor’. Our role is to form opinions on the annual financial statements of the College, not to provide a consultancy-based service, or a systems opinion. We will rely on the work of Internal Audit to provide comfort on systems and we will review their work to ensure this reliance can be placed.
A real understanding of the College’s financial performance and position should be the first priority for your auditor. This is often not the case, with more focus put on form-filling compliance than financial analysis. We are confident that our approach is refreshing and unique, focusing on the financial statements and the risks associated in their construction, communicated transparently to the Audit Committee through our annual report. We believe also that, by fulfilling our responsibilities as auditors in this way, we are mirroring closely the onerous responsibilities of the Members to monitor performance and manage risk. Traditional audit approaches often do not achieve this. Our existing FE College clients have consistently told us that this approach to our work is the main reason for our continued selection on retender.
Assisting the Members in fulfilling their responsibilities is our main priority. To achieve this efficiently, at a competitive price, and with the least disruption to the operations of the College, follows a close second.
We aim to deliver a product which is ‘right first time and on time’. By doing this, not only do our clients benefit from the minimum of disruption, our quality is assured and we keep our costs under control.
We recognise that, as we act for few FE institutions, we may appear inexperienced compared with our competitors. However, in our view, this lack of ‘numbers’ does not reflect a lack of expertise and our continuing reappointment at our existing FE clients provides evidence of this.
The main sector specific matters are covered in the SORP, the Accounts Direction and the Regularity Audit guidance. Combined with an understanding of the sources of income and the related contracts (a finite matter for the material income streams), we believe that sufficient ‘sector expertise’ can be acquired relatively easily.
We are honest about our offering – we will deliver an effective, informed external audit, with sufficient sector understanding to ensure that the college complies fully with those requirements linked to external audit. We do not put ourselves forward as specialists in other areas of FE management consultancy not linked to the external audit role. Our existing FE clients understand this and, if they wished to obtain consultancy advice on topics we cannot cover, they would look elsewhere. In practice, we believe this happens very rarely.
The firm acts for a number of private schools, many of which are also registered charities. We have helped to guide these schools through the maze of compliance with the requirements of the Charities SORP.
We also provide assurance services to state funded schools and have accreditation under the FMSIS (Financial Management Standard In Schools).