The Academies Trust Handbook 2022 edition appeared a little later than usual this year. The ATH’s primary objective is help schools take full responsibility for its financial affairs, stewardship of assets and use resources efficiently to maximise outcomes for pupils. Given the short amount of time schools have had to absorb and adopt any changes, thankfully there aren’t any sweeping upheavals to the previous edition. The changes are intended to provide greater clarification for trusts around specific areas of financial reporting and day to day financial operations, namely:
Financial Reporting: Confirming withdrawal of the Budget Forecast Return Outturn paragraph [2.15]. As promised, the separate budget forecast return outturn (BFRO) is now a thing of the past. Your trust must continue to submit only the budget forecast return (BFR) each year
Special Payments: Clarifying in paragraph [5.12] that prior approval of staff severance payments in accordance with HM Treasury’s Guidance on Public Sector Exit Payments applies only to ‘special’ (non-statutory/non-contractual) payments.
A trust must get approval from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) before making special staff severance payments that meet certain criteria – not for any staff severance payments meeting the criteria, as stated in the 2021 version of the handbook. It's a small, but important, distinction: A special staff severance payment is one that "doesn't correspond to an established contractual, statutory or other right"
Indemnities: Confirming that trusts will be able to enter into indemnities which are in the normal course of business without seeking approval paragraph [5.19].
Religious Character: Extending the scope of paragraph [5.57] from dioceses to all religious authorities, confirming when the ‘at cost’ requirement is met.