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We are considering new IT systems for Finance, HR, MIS and Payroll. Which systems do you recommend?

When choosing systems, we would always recommend that the first step should be to identify the Academy’s strategic objectives and then to align the new IT systems with these. New academies have an ideal opportunity to choose systems that integrate into a co-ordinated solution and thereby avoid wasteful re-keying of data, but the choice must position the Academy to achieve its strategic goals.
Internal Audit

The new Academies Financial Handbook which was issued in September 2012 gives academies a choice of ways for the Board to discharge their duties relating to internal control systems.

The previous methodology which involved minimal checks being performed by a Responsible Officer has now been outgrown as the new academies become bigger and more complex.

One of the options now available is to appoint an external organisation to provide an independent Internal Audit service. This can provide a high degree of comfort for Boards of Trustees that the right controls are in place and systems and procedures are appropriate. Experience of what has been achieved elsewhere can be an extremely valuable input to a newly formed academy.
Is Your Finance Function Ready?

One of the recurring stories we hear from our clients who have recently achieved Academy status is that they did not realise soon enough how many changes they needed to make to their finance support function to position them to cope with their new situation.

The new complexities involved in supplying accounts and financial forecasts to the EFA and their Board of Trustees and acceptable accounts to Companies House and other regulatory bodies are all too often underestimated in the early stages after the Academy is formed.

One common problem that must be addressed very early is the choice of a suitable accounting system. Specialist expertise is needed here as the system that was appropriate before may be unsuitable for their new responsibilities.

Failure to act early may leave the Academy playing catch up and maybe even needing to start again. This can be very disruptive and extremely expensive.
Problems can be avoided by commissioning an early external review to look at staffing, systems and reporting.
Need to Recruit Senior Finance Personnel?

MCA have years of experience in recruiting top-level finance personnel for educational organisations. Many academies are choosing to use the designation Business Manager rather than Financial Director, although in most cases the FD is what the post holders actually are.

The role however, does need to be wider than a pure FD and Business Managers in the new academies also need to be commercially aware and astute and be able to advise and reassure the Senior Leadership Team and the Board on not only finances but other business support functions as well.

The MCA recruitment service takes responsibility for the whole recruitment process from advising on the job and person specifications to the selection of the most suitable candidate. Our service combines many years’ experience in finance and education with appropriate recruitment methodologies. Call us to discuss your needs.
Do Your Board Minutes Pass the Scrutiny Test?

The Board of an Academy Trust have a key role to play in being a critical friend to the SLT. Because of this role, the importance of the Board minutes becomes more pronounced. Academies are subject to a number of different regulatory bodies all of whom may wish to review Board minutes.

For this reason, the minutes should clearly demonstrate to these third parties not only the decisions that were reached but should also clearly document the discussion that led up to each decision to demonstrate the correct functioning of the Board in their role as “critical friend”.

Ask yourself this question “If I were an interested third party reading our Board minutes, would I be able to understand the decision-making process that preceded each resolution.” If the answer is no then we would suggest that change is needed.
It is very important to us to deliver a great service that has a strong impact to the performance of an academy. This month we asked The Associate Headteacher from Claremont High School Academy for a few words on how we have helped them...
“MCA Coopers have worked with the Academy for over three years and during this time they have been extremely helpful and always totally professional in all they do. They have acted as the Academy’s Responsible Officer and Internal Auditor visiting us every term. This helps to ensure that the Academy is fully up to date with its financial procedures and meets the demands of the Education Funding Agency.

MCA Coopers as specialists in the education sector have been a great source of guidance, support and advice to the Academy. They regularly up date and guide us through education finance policy, and ensure that our systems and procedures are robust to meet the high levels of accountability required for academies. I have no hesitation in recommending this company most highly.”

(Associate Headteacher)
Senior Qualified Academies Accountant (Quote Ref: 42SMFI)
Chartered Management Accountant with many years’ experience in various sectors. Recent assignments have included providing advice and support to converter academies. Ideal as an Interim FD or Business Manager for converter academies. Available for an immediate start.

Experienced IT/Systems/Project Manager (Quote Ref: 14CMIT)
Prince 2 qualified FE IT professional with recent experience of undertaking comprehensive systems reviews at two large colleges and with project management experience. Number of years’ education sector experience. Available for an immediate start.

SLT Level HR Professional (Quote Ref: 13CMHR)
Very experienced HR professional with experience in education. Available for an immediate start any location.