A view from the CFO…

PAG Staff COVID-19, Interview, Schools

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Mike Giddings is consultant CFO to two multi-academy trusts and a DfE Schools Resource Management Advisor. He is the owner of MLG Education Services.

SRMA’s have come in for a bit for a bit of criticism recently – is this justified?

I can only speak for the work that I have seen and I do feel that SRMAs are adding value to schools, MATs and LAs. As SRMAs we work with the schools to produce “recommendations” for potential changes, I think some of the criticism has come from schools thinking they are mandatory.

What is keeping CFO’s up at night?

  • FSM Voucher claims (should they claim as they are funded for this already)
  • Furlough or not to Furlough
  • Catering contracts
  • Ensuring that decisions taken by Accounting Officers are not contravening the AFH, school financial regulations and the additional guidance issued by the DFE

How have finance colleagues reacted to the current situation

  • After the first week or so of working out how to operate, the majority have now settled into a “new norm”, which is using all the technology available to operate as if they were in school. All are now expert on MS Teams and Zoom.
  • Our larger MATs are seeing this as a time to catch up and to also plan for 2020-21
  • Considering how they might change the way they work once the lockdown is lifted, as many have seen an increase in “financial” efficiency 

What are your three areas of focus as we (hopefully) start to come out of the crisis?

  • Ensure that you have properly discussed and agreed “unusual” transactions with the accounting officer and if required the board. In addition ensure that all decisions have been properly recorded in minutes of meetings
  • Complete the re-forecast to 31 August 2020. Although this is not required by the ESFA, this is a really valuable project to complete, especially with the COVID-19 impact
  • Plan how “savings” from the COVID-19 period will be used to invest in the education of the pupils once they are back in school, or before if possible.
  • Complete the 2020-21 forecast as soon as possible and ensure that this is completed with the SRMA Self Assessment Dashboard, so that you know that an efficient budget has been set. 

How’s business generally?

Very busy. Our main focus over the past 4 weeks has been on advising schools on how to interpret the new guidance that has been released by the DFE, especially the guidance relating to suppliers. 

What is your conclusion on claiming additional monies from the ESFA?

You should only be claiming if as an academy trust, you will be financially worse off because of COVID-19. We have yet to find an academy trust from the enquiries that we have had that is forecasting they will be