The Academies Financial Handbook issued by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) highlights the need for a chief financial officer (CFO) to ensure resources are properly accounted for and managed in an academy. The Handbook notes that the EFA requires academies to appoint a ‘chief financial officer’ to lead on financial matters. At the same time, an academy must have an accounting officer – the principal or chief executive – who is designated as accountable for value for money, regularity and propriety. It makes sense, therefore, to have effective arrangements in place to ensure the success of the chief financial officer role both in terms of the person carrying out the role and the governance structures in place that enable the person to perform well.
There are different structures in place across academy trusts reflecting the diverse nature and size of the trusts making up the sector. Many academies have business managers as well as accountants. But who is, or should be, the person in the CFO role in an academy, and where should the role fit within the overall governance structure?
In the first instance it is essential that academies have someone clearly designated in the chief financial officer role, whether this is termed a school business manager or finance director or other title. The chief financial officer must be able to intervene in spending plans to maintain the balance of resources so that the academy remains a going concern, therefore he or she must have access to the accounting officer, including a direct reporting line.