2. Chris James, Senior Accountant at Alan Patient & Co

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This week Tim travels to Woodford to the offices of Chris James, a Senior Accountant at Alan Patient & Co a London firm providing accountancy services to schools across the UK.

On this episode Chris James talks:  

The first academy they worked with

How the above panned out

Schools’ experience prior to academising

‘Good housekeeping’ prior to academisation

The higher level of accountancy scrutiny after academisation

Investing in higher accountancy systems to address the above

The benefit of increase financial clarity in helping make decisions

Ensuring the children get the best education possible

The skill-level of site managers required to operate investments

Whether accountants need to be involved earlier in the process

The key times to prepare schools for the conversion process

The important of the due diligence stage

Advising schools’ liabilities at as early a stage as possible

Finding ways in which everyone can work collaboratively so that schools have a better service at the front end

What successes they have noted with schools going from public sector to private

How conversions work best when schools go to them at an earlier stage

The potential confusion of schools at their first audit

How investing in decent systems and skills leads to better audits

How audits can be helpful to identify ways forward

How larger MATs and secondary levels with directors of finance grasp the changes quicker

Supporting smaller primaries that don’t have the resources for directors of finance

Lloyds Bank dominating the sector by providing single points of contact

How they started in the commercial sector

The brand new element of compliance and reporting academisation brings schools

Teachers being asked to be accounting officers

Important to show understanding in terms of what they’re going through

The importance of supporting and reassuring schools

How many schools have converted at risk

Supporting schools in cutting costs and setting up new revenue streams

Hammering it home that ‘they are a business now’

How the revenue from the business is reinvested into education

Finding themselves advising more on the above options

Obtaining value for money being paramount

Results from the Improvement Fund

Value for money raising from 15 to 25%

The impact the above has on schools

50% of academised schools in year deficit

The potentially bleak future for schools that cannot support themselves

Small trusts or stand alone schools being encouraged to join larger ones

Potential future funding streams to help schools stay in small MATs – trying to maximise income, allowing more uses of their facilities, trying to minimise their costs

The benefits of working with professionals early on in academisation process

How schools should approach professional services before they convert to put them in a far stronger position

How all parties involved would better prepare schools with if they provided a more unified wraparound service

The aim to help as many schools as possible to make sure that they have the financial reporting and information that they are compliant and can also make the best decisions so they know they can provide the best education for the children

Passing on skills to the trustees so that they can be better equipped to cope with academisation