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ESFA promises greater certainty for colleges with new Financial Handbook

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Today (20 March), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has launched its new College Financial Handbook

The handbook was developed in close collaboration with the college sector and is designed to give colleges much greater clarity and certainty on the financial management framework that they are required to fulfill. 

It brings together in one place the requirements that have been in place for a number of years, combined with the new elements arising from the reclassification of the sector in late 2022 including those featuring in the series of ESFA “bite size” guides, published in early 2023. 

The handbook will be effective from 1 August 2024 and will then form part of the accountability agreement to provide the sector with certainty to support financial planning.

David Withey, Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, said:

“Providing much greater certainty to colleges is one of our key priorities. It means offering a reliable and excellent funding service but also creating the right conditions so that colleges can plan effectively with a Handbook that offers a really clear framework of information, guidance and requirements.

“Our colleges play a hugely important role in providing training and skills opportunities right across the country, helping learners and citizens to access those opportunities and realise their potential. It’s our job to support and enable colleges to do this, by making sure that the funding we allocate to colleges is well-spent and managed, and so that colleges can also improve and enhance their own financial management and governance

“Thank you to the Association of Colleges, the Sixth Form Colleges Association and those in the sector who have worked with us and shared their invaluable insight and collaboration in developing the handbook. I’d encourage all colleges to become familiar with the contents and as always we welcome feedback.”  

Julian Gravatt, Deputy Chief Executive at Association of College said:

“Colleges have a track record of strong financial management dating back to the 1990s when they gained their independence. Officials have worked with college professionals to develop this clearly written Financial Handbook which will make it easier for everyone involved in the sector understand and apply the key rules.”

James Kewan, Deputy CEO of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, added:

“SFCA welcomes the introduction of the college financial handbook as a means to provide colleges with additional support and certainty following the sector’s reclassification. Financial leaders in our colleges have been closely involved in its development and we look forward to further work with the ESFA to refine and improve the handbook to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of our sector.”

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