Year ended 31 August 2014
As Accounting Officer of Catcote Academy I am responsible and accountable for ensuring that the academy trust delivers good value in the use of public resources.
I set out below how I have ensured that the academy trust achieve the best possible educational and wider societal outcomes through the use of the resources in its charge.
Improving Educational Results
It is essential that the Academy is effective in meeting the needs of an increasing and diversified school population.
During the year a re-organisation of the administrative function took place in order to meet the growing needs of the Academy as did a review of the teaching support staff structure and roles in order to recommend a revised structure focusing on sustaining quality provision and continuing to improve student learning and progress.
The diverse special needs of the students are a constant focus for the school. CPD and appraisal systems ensure that appropriately skilled teaching and teaching support staff can provide the support required for each student and that the Academy can deploy staff efficiently to support curriculum improvements. Focused classroom observations take place throughout the year with findings incorporated into future CPD requirements. Effective monitoring and scrutiny of work also ensure educational standards are upheld.
The addition of a Behaviour for Learning (TLR) role during the year will support staff and students to implement effective interventions and promote positive behaviour, whilst the introduction of Family Student Support officer has improved whole school attendance and reduced persistence absenteeism.
Annual review of the curriculum ensures that the needs of each student are met and investment in infrastructure and resources are incorporated into the financial budget to enable the continuation of outcomes.
The development of an Internship study program for post 16 students has focussed on employability skills, work placement, independent travel and life skills alongside Maths, English and ICT qualifications. Also, the conversion of facilities has enabled access for all learners to advance in life and independent living skills in a realistic setting and to engage in vocational pathways. Reserves had been allocated for the funding of this initiative.
The Academy has very good external links with the community and other schools. Good practice is shared and in particular our Business & Enterprise curriculum model is distributed nationwide.
Clear and robust self-evaluation systems are in place to ensure that educational standards continue to improve and that students reach their full potential.
A comprehensive School Development Plan and Self Evaluation Cycle support the achievement of planned improvements. Success criteria detail student outcomes and outline progress. Parent, staff and student questionnaires are considered during the target setting process.
The academy has a data cycle in place which enables progress and attainment to be analysed. Trends are maintained over a 3-year period to monitor progress over a longer time scale. The academy looks to maintain standards by benchmarking against other SEN schools and using the Governments progression guidance.
Individual Learning Plans, Individual Education Programs and One Plans are in place for each of our students and ensure that the necessary resources are allocated to facilitate their attainment.
During the last three years the number of lessons judged as good to outstanding has improved and a very large majority of students met or exceeded their end of year targets in core subjects. There were no gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students with the exception of the gap between the SEMHD learners and all other students. The very large majority of year 11 students achieved qualifications in English and Maths and all year 14 students achieved a further qualification in English & Maths.
Attendance has improved over the academic year, including persistent absenteeism, as a result of the intervention of the newly appointed Family Student Support Officer and there has been improved communication around students who demonstrate challenging behaviours.
During the year the Academy expected to operate at a deficit (excluding fixed asset fund) during its first year post conversion due to the cost of conversion, improvement in school facilities and the introduction of new initiatives. However the size of the deficit was considerably lower than budgeted and overall reserves remain above the minimum level dictated by the Trust’s reserves policy.
Financial Governance and Oversight
The Governing Body both challenge standards and attainment levels. In addition the external School Improvement Partner works in conjunction with the Head Teacher to ensure continued improvement and reports to the Governing Body on progress.
An independent audit of the Governing Body (LGB) to took place to identify any insufficiencies with regards to structure, responsibilities, duties and skills and to ensure the operation of the LGB meets the needs of the Trust. An additional appointment to the LGB resulted and training was put in place to further governance skills. Review of the information provided to the Governing Body by management to ensure that Governors can effectively provide oversight and challenge the management team has been a focus during the period and this will continue.
The Board of Directors approved the annual budget of the academy and on a termly basis the Finance & Audit Committee reviews the budget monitoring reports and approve additional expenditure requirements or reductions. Information has been provided on key cost areas and how funds have been used to achieve educational and wider societal outcomes. The findings from this Committee are reported to the Governing Body and Board of Directors.
During the year there has been an introduction of improved financial controls and procedures to ensure adherence with the Finance Policy of the Trust, including aspects of value for money, and the implementation of a new financial management system to record financial transactions and aid budget monitoring and financial reporting. In addition a reorganisation and strengthening of the administration and finance functions has supported the timely and accurate recording of data and the implementation of policies.
Independent compliance audits were conducted once a term to ensure that:
- the financial responsibilities of the Governing Body are being properly discharged
- resources are managed in an efficient, economical and effective manner
- sound systems of internal financial control are being maintained
- financial considerations are fully taken into account in reaching decisions
The results are reported to the Finance and Audit Committee and any necessary improvements agreed. No high risk areas were identified.
The annual audit took place to review the design and implementation of key internal financial controls and identify any material misstatements in the financial statements. The Finance and Audit Committee reviewed the financial statements and the auditor’s report. No deficiencies in internal control procedures were found that required being brought to the attention of the Directors and the financial statements were verified as providing a true and fair state of the Trust’s affairs, income and expenditure for the period.
The Academy proactively challenges, and evaluates alternative provision, of all contracts upon renewal to ensure best value for money is attained. The Academy also promotes fair competition through quotations and tenders in accordance with its Finance Policy.
Budget holders have been identified to monitor key cost areas and ensure purchasing procedures, including VFM, are adhered to. Updated purchasing and expenses procedures have been implemented to ensure compliance with the Finance Policy and the economic use of resources.
The Head of Finance & Corporate Services, Head Teacher and Finance & Audit Committee review and authorise purchase requisitions and expenditure in line with the Finance Policy and regularly challenge these for efficiency and effectiveness. In turn, the Governing Body review the functions of the school and challenge service provision.
Maximising income generation
The academy explores all opportunities to generate additional income including the hire of academy facilities, enterprise schemes and the submission of appropriate grant applications. During the year the Academy has received funds through enterprise schemes, voluntary donations and offering training and use of facilities.
Reviewing Controls and Managing Risks
The Academy has a dedicated Finance and Audit Committee that maintains an oversight of its risk management and value for money framework.
The Academy appointed Evolution LLP, who undertakes assurance reviews and reports these findings back to the Finance & Audit Committee.
A risk register for the Trust was implemented earlier this year to describe the major risks to which the Academy is exposed, identify the probability of their occurrence and the impact should the events actually occur. Actions were identified to reduce the probability and/or impact of each event and allocated to mitigation owners to ensure implementation.
The Head of Finance and Corporate Services and Head Teacher review monthly management accounts including budget monitoring reports. These are also reviewed termly by the Finance and Audit Committee and reported to the Governors and Board of Directors.
The Trust concentrated much of its efforts during this year on ensuring a smooth conversion to Academy status and making sure that the necessary structures, policies and procedures were in place to enable this. Following a successful period of change a period of consolidation is now planned to review and strengthen the organisation.
The Academy now looks to further develop governance skills through training and seek more direct input into the Academy’s School Development Plan and Self valuation Form by Governors.
Continued investment in staff CPD is essential to ensure a qualified and committed workforce. The existing leadership structure will be evaluated to ensure it continues to be effective in meeting the needs of an increasing and diversified school population.
With regards to teaching and learning, a review of the curriculum and pathways is necessary to make sure the needs of all individual students are met and there will be continued promotion of educational visits and outdoor learning. There will also be an investment in literacy and numeracy resources in the coming year and in particular numicon and Lexia programmes in order to improve attainment in Maths and English.
Further investment in facilities for SEMHD and ASD cohorts will be necessary to meet the needs of these students.
The effectiveness of budget holders in monitoring costs in identified areas and achieving value for money will be a focus of the coming year. A review of the Academy’s grant funding requirements will take place during the coming year as well as investigating investment opportunities in line with our Investment Policy. Further refining of our purchasing procedures will also be a take place as will review of the financial information reported to Directors and Governors.
Academy Trust Accounting Officer