Guidance

Academies financial returns

Guide and links to further information about financial returns academy trusts submit to the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Introduction

Academy trusts are required by their funding agreements to submit financial returns to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

The financial accountability and assurance framework is set out in the Academies Financial Handbook and the detailed guide to academies financial assurance.

Submit your school resource management self-assessment tool checklist

All academy trusts that had an open academy on 31 August 2020 must complete the school resource management self-assessment tool and submit this to ESFA. The deadline for academy trusts to submit their checklist will be in March 2021.

The dashboard must be completed in order to answer the final question of the checklist, but does not need to be submitted. You can read detailed guidance about completing the self-assessment tool and dashboard and link to the online form.

You may find it useful to complete the tool at other times, for example to compare your spending plans for next year to similar schools.

New academy trusts that opened on or after 1 September 2019, must complete a financial management and governance self-assessment.

Submit your budget forecast return

Academy trusts must monitor and manage their own budgets to ensure effective financial oversight of public funds. ESFA reviews academy trusts’ budget projections and actual results to assess financial health and to ensure the estimates of the future funding requirements for academies are accurate.

Please note that the BFRO 2020 will not be required this year and the next scheduled financial return for academy trusts will be the BFR3Y in June 2020.

The BFR3Y collects financial information as well as a 3 year forecast for the sector. Please note that any new academies will need to be included within the next available BFR financial return.

You can read detailed guidance about the academies budget forecast return and link to the online form.

Submit your land and buildings collection tool

The land and building collection tool (LBCT) is a return that requires each trusts to tell us how it occupies the land it uses and what buildings are on each parcel of land. It also asks for supporting documentation such as leaseholds, annotated site plans and tenancy agreements. This information enables ESFA to report full information on the land and buildings held across the sector in the academies consolidated annual report and accounts.

You can read the guide to completing the academies land and building collection tool and use a workbook to help you prepare.

New academy trusts that open a school 31 August, must complete both LBCT and the academy land and buildings valuation return for that year.

Submit your accounts return

Academy trust accounting officers are required to submit to ESFA an annual accounts return in January each year.

The accounts return is used for the academies consolidated annual report and accounts, which consolidates academy trust accounts for the year ending 31 August each year rather than as part of ESFA’s and DfE’s annual accounts, which are based on year ending 31 March each year.

The accounts return also helps DfE to produce benchmarking data that is comparable with other academies and with maintained schools.

Academy trusts need to commission from their external auditors an assurance report on the preparation of the accounts return. The auditor’s report is the final step of the online form submission process.

All academy trusts with a funding agreement with the Secretary of State and an open academy at any point during the accounting period to the end of August each year must complete the accounts return.

Deloitte carries out the validation of financial returns on ESFA’s behalf, and may need to email your academy trust with queries about the data you supplied. ESFA will publish information about the validation tests, thresholds and standard questions Deloitte uses in the workbook for the accounts return.

The accounts return is separate to the requirement for academy trusts to produce audited financial statements.

Submit your financial statements

Academy trusts must submit audited accounts to ESFA for the period ending 31 August 2020, by 31 January 2021. Guidance on submitting audited accounts is provided in the Academies Accounts Direction and Eileen Milner’s letter to Accounting Officers.

Additionally, you must publish your accounts on your academy trust’s website as soon as possible after approval by the trustees and by 28 February 2021.

You must also file these accounts with Companies House within 9 months of the end of the accounting period. For most trusts, this will be 31 May.

Submit your land and buildings valuation return

The academies land and buildings valuation data collection has been paused until the end of December 2020 when it will be reviewed. Any academy required to submit a return during this period will be contacted directly with revised guidance, once collection of this return resumes.

New academies should complete the land and buildings valuation online form within 6 weeks of opening. This allows DfE to produce desktop valuations of the land and buildings of all new academies. ESFA will send academies that opened in the year between 1 September and 31 August a copy of the desktop valuation in the following January. The copy is for information only.

Academies better financial reporting programme

The better financial reporting programme is looking to improve the existing end-to-end process for financial reporting by academy trusts.

We have:

  • published an academies chart of accounts to provide a single dataset for the accounts return and budget forecast returns
  • provided every academy trust that submitted its 2018/19 accounts return on time with a prepopulated school resource management self-assessment tool, available in the view your education data site
  • launched the view my financial insights tool, enabling trusts to compare their academies’ 2018/19 expenditure to other similar academies

We are working to:

  • automate data collection to reduce the need for filling in lengthy forms

You can read more about the academies better financial reporting (PDF, 79.5KB, 2 pages) programme.

Queries

If you have any queries about any of these online returns please use the contact form below to raise them. If you’re contacting us from an academy trust please provide your academy trust details and if your query relates to a return please provide further details as this will help us deal with your query promptly.

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Published 11 March 2014
Last updated 13 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. We have updated this page with the link to guidance for academy trusts on submitting their audited financial statements for 2019 to 2020.

  2. The land and buildings valuation data collection has been paused until the end of December 2020

  3. We have updated the page to change the deadline for academy trusts to submit financial statements to ESFA for the year ending 31 August 2020 to 31 January 2021 in light of COVID-19.

  4. Updated information on better financial reporting to include information about the new 'view my financial insights' portal.

  5. Updated to add information about the school resource management self-assessment tool checklist, which academy trusts must submit to ESFA by 14 November 2019.

  6. Updated information about the better financial reporting programme.

  7. Updated with information about the academies better financial reporting programme, which aims to improve academy trust financial reporting and reduce the burden on trusts.

  8. Updated information about new academy budget forecast returns.

  9. Updated the page to include a new guidance video explaing the outcome of the 2015 to 2016 consolidated academy sector annual report and accounts

  10. Updated information about academy trusts budget forecast returns.

  11. Updated with a link to information about submitting academy trusts 2016 to 2017 financial statements.

  12. Updated the link to the new page for the academies accounts return.

  13. Updated to add a link to the guide to completing the academies land and buildings collection tool.

  14. Updated information adding information about the land and building collection tool and a link to the budget forecast return online form.

  15. Updated information about arrangements for the academies budget forecast returns.

  16. Updated information about financial returns for 2015 to 2016.

  17. The Education Funding Agency has updated the page with information on how to register for the 2 December 2015 webinar for academies on completing the August accounts return.

  18. The Education Funding Agency has updated this page to confirm academy trusts no longer need to complete an annual value for money form by 31 December. Instead, trusts must complete an assessment of value for money within the governance statement in their annual financial statements.

  19. The Education Funding Agency has updated the page to include a link to the guide to completing academy trusts' 2015 to 2016 budget forecast returns. The online form academy trusts must use to submit the return will be published in June.

  20. The Education Funding Agency (EFA) has updated the guide to financial returns to include reference to the March 2015 accounts return, which academy trusts in scope must submit to EFA by 31 May 2015.

  21. Links added to newly-published March accounts return and Deloitte validation tests

  22. First published.