The DfE, SARA and what it means for academies


In this blog we look a little deeper into why academies are required to complete additional returns, and catch up on other news from the EFA and TPS.

Sector Annual Report & Accounts (SARA)

As Peter Launer explained in his ‘Dear Accounting Officer’ letter dated 17 March, the Department for Education (DfE) has agreed new financial reporting arrangements for the academies sector with HM Treasury and Parliament.

DfE will prepare a new Sector Annual Report and Accounts (SARA) for the academic year from 1 September to 31 August each year. This aligns with the financial reporting period of individual academy trusts. This is different to the financial reporting period for government departments, which is from 1 April to 31 March each year.

The new reporting arrangements respond to the ‘adverse’ opinion on DfE’s consolidated accounts for the years ending 31 March 2014 and 2015. This opinion is in part due to the complex methodology used to present results based on a 7-month difference in the reporting periods used by academy trusts and DfE.

DfE is preparing the first SARA for the reporting period from 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2016. The new budget forecast and returns that academies are being asked to complete reflect this change.

Although SARA will mean no noticeable change for most academies there are a few things that you may need to bear in mind:

  • All academies open on 31 August must have a full set of statutory accounts and Academy Accounts Return (AAR) no matter how short the period.  Academies will no longer be able to delay submitting their first set of accounts (up to 17 months). This will mean some converting academies will need to produce accounts to 31 August shortly after converting.
  • Academies moving to another trust on 1 September will require an audited set of statutory accounts and Academies Accounts Return to reflect the post year-end trading even if it is just to reflect the transfer on 1 September.
  • Audited accounts will still need to be approved and submitted to the EFA by 31 December.
  • The Academy Accounts Return deadline is expected to move to 19 Jan for 2018. We understand the deadline will eventually move to 31 December.  Submission will be through an online tool, as it was this year, though some improvements to the system are being discussed.
  • Academies will need to submit their Budget Forecast Return: Outturn (BFRO) in May. In addition to actuals for the period September to March of the current academic year, academies will need to review data from their audited accounts for the period from April to August in the previous year. The BFRO also requests a forecast for April to August in the current year.
  • The Budget Forecast Return (BFR), submitted in July, will focus on the projected financial position of academy trusts for the following academic year.

Other News

Academies are reminded that they can now claim a grant for their 2017-18 National Non Domestic Rates. Please click on the online form available on the EFA website – Click here.

The EFA has published the outcome Condition Improvement Fund applications for 2017 to 2018 – Click here.

Academies also need to contact Teachers Pension Scheme about moving to Monthly Data Collection, if they have not already done so. At the start of the month 828 employers had still to agree their ‘on-boarding’ date, with all academies needing to transfer before the end on 2017 – Click here.

TPS also advised that they will be releasing a revised End of Year Certificate before the end of April.

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