Ensuring Compliance and Financial Accountability in Multi-Academy Trusts

Discover in this blog the critical importance of compliance for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), exploring their obligations outlined in the Academies Trust Handbook. Uncover insights into financial responsibility, safety priorities, GDPR adherence, and regulatory compliance. Plus, learn how MATs reshape accountability through external providers. 

Financial accountability and compliance are essential components of sound governance within MATs. By implementing robust financial and non-financial controls, MATs can maintain public confidence and demonstrate their commitment to best practices and the right practices for the future of their trust. 

MATs must comply with various legal and statutory requirements, including financial regulations, health and safety standards, and data protection laws. Compliance in Multi-Academy Trusts is crucial. 

To achieve compliance, MATs should consider the following: 

Academy Trust Handbook: MATs must comply with the Academies Trust Handbook, including its guidance on reporting requirements, financial management, and control, including budgeting, procurement, internal scrutiny, delegation, compliance, and overall accountability. 

Academies and multi-academy trusts are subject to a stronger financial accountability regime than local authority-maintained schools. Academies are required to publish their audited financial accounts annually, with the Education and Skills Funding Agency overseeing compliance aligns with the funding agreement.  

It is important to demonstrate that trustees, members, staff and volunteers do not benefit personally from decisions made with regard to the spending of public money. To ensure that the financial standing of the Trust cannot be brought into disrepute,  

The Trust must take responsibility for handling public funds with the utmost importance and strive to continuously provide a high-quality education and safe learning environment whilst having a strong financial standing, assuring trustees that the Trust complies with the AFH and the funding agreement. 

Health and Safety: MATs must prioritise health and safety compliance across multiple schools and/or buildings. Regular checks, registers and risk profiling help identify and prioritise risks. It is essential to have action plans in place to address identified risks and ensure a positive safety culture. 

Data Protection: MATs must adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO).  A statement of compliance should be published, and MATs should follow a checklist covering key areas of GDPR compliance. 

Regulatory Compliance: MATs face regulatory compliance challenges, often requiring strategic advice to help make decisions aligned with legal requirements. Seeking expert guidance can help MATs navigate complex regulatory frameworks effectively. 

Vigilant compliance monitoring must be a top priority across the trust, and any identified issues or gaps should be promptly rectified. The key to mitigating risk in a MAT involves consistent internal audits, external reviews, and active engagement with pertinent regulatory authorities. MATs should be proactive rather than passive in monitoring compliance throughout their trust. MAT leaders are responsible for diligently identifying and addressing any issues or gaps as they arise.  

Internal scrutiny: MAT and school leaders across the UK are re-modelling their performance frameworks to keep their organisations on course. They’re adopting alternative strategies to demonstrate accountability that drive future improvement, not just record past progress. Increasingly , Trusts are looking to external providers to aid in this internal scrutiny. 

A further benefit of internal scrutiny within trusts is that it can help to promote transparency and accountability within the Trust by ensuring that operations are conducted in accordance with current policies and procedures.  This can assist in building confidence among all stakeholders. 

Conclusion: A path to trust excellence 

Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) function within an intricate and heavily regulated framework. Compliance and accountability are not up for negotiation; they are both mandated by law and reflect a steadfast dedication to the highest governance standards. In a time when trust and reputation hold immense value, the unwavering commitment to best practices and the right practices remains the cornerstone that allows Multi-Academy Trusts to radiate as beacons of educational excellence. 

Support from the experts 

For Multi-Academy Trusts committed to maintaining the highest standards of governance and accountability, Juniper Education offers a suite of Internal Scrutiny and Risk and Governance Services. Our expertise and experience in the education sector position us as a trusted partner in ensuring compliance and operational excellence. 

See how we are impacting MATs just like yours  

To witness the real-world impact of our services and how they benefit MATs, we invite you to download our exclusive case study 

Or talk to our team to discover how our solutions have successfully empowered MATs to navigate the complex terrain of compliance, accountability, and transparency.