Information for academy trusts to complete their accounts return.

Accessing the accounts return online form

The accounts return (AR) will open on 4 November 2019 and the submission deadline is 20 January 2020. Once the form is live please use this link to access the form:

Accounts return login

The accounts return uses the same registration system as our other financial returns and if you’re having difficulties accessing the form please see this registration guidance page.

If you are having difficulties loading the AR form please check you have either the latest browser downloaded or try using an alternative browser. To find out more about internet browsers please see this helpful guide.

2018/2019 accounts return

The guidance for completing the online form is now in an HTML format this year. Please use this link to access the guidance for completing the AR return.

Guidance for using the accounts return online form

For this year’s AR financial return we have published these documents for users to help prepare their AR as well as to show in detail how the validations will work in this year’s return.

Accounts return 2018/2019: Excel workbook

XLSM, 8.84MB

Academies accounts return - validation and help text 2018/2019

MS Excel Spreadsheet, 239KB

Academy trusts preparing their audited financial statements for any period to 31 August 2019 are also required to complete the accounts return.

This document outlines the main updates to the 2018/2019 AR form and the key differences between the financial statements and the accounts return for the year 2018/2019. This highlights new information that trusts are required to report on as well as listing differences between the financial statements and the accounts return. Trusts can use this when preparing financial statements to plan ahead for the accounts return.

Academies accounts return 2018/2019: updates and additional information requirements

PDF, 417KB, 13 pages

We have published the updated counterparty list that needs to be included within your accounts return in the ‘counterparty data’ section. We have included a tab that shows the changes from last year’s return to this years to help make clear what has to be included in the 2018/2019 collection.

Academies accounts return counterparty list 2018/2019

MS Excel Spreadsheet, 578KB

For this year we have mapped the benchmarking sections to help users see where the validations are linked. This document will help users complete the form.

Academies accounts return - benchmarking mapping guide 2018/2019

MS Excel Spreadsheet, 31.7KB

Pension actuarial results schedule

We have published a guide for AR pension 2018/2019 section. This will help users accurately complete the AR pension section as well as provide details for the McCloud and GMP Equalisation Judgement should be treated in your AR this year.


Guide to pensions section of the academies accounts return 2018/2019

PDF, 766KB, 24 pages

We have also mapped the 4 actuarial reports of AON, Barnett Waddingham, Hymans Robertson and Mercer to the accounts return online form using the forms new referencing. These example reports have been annotated by the accounts return team which will translate to your final pension actuarial statement. This should help you complete your balance sheet funds and disclosure tab-pension information section of the accounts return.

How to contact us if you have queries

If you’re having difficulties completing your return we will be hosting weekly skype calls with users as well as also hosting web-chat sessions. Users can also submit an ESFA enquiry via the details below.

Skype Calls

We will be hosting a series of weekly Skype calls with the sector to answer any of your questions about the AR return.

If you have the Skype app please use this link to access the call, if you don’t have the app please dial this number 02033 215 238 and when prompted enter this conference code: 7596 8164.


You can submit any questions you may have on the AR return to the webchat on the forum. Please enter #AR2019 to access the webchat forum. Please check back for a response to your question regularly, we will be responding to questions several times a week.

19/11/2019Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
26/11/2019Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
03/12/2019Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
10/12/2019Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
12/12/2019Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
17/12/2019Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
19/12/2019Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
23/12/2019Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
06/01/2020Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
07/01/2020Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
08/01/2020Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
09/01/2020Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
10/01/2020Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
13/01/2020Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
14/01/2020Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
15/01/2020Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
16/01/2020Skype Call13:00 – 14:00
17/01/2020Web Chat13:00 – 14:00
20/01/2020Skype Call13:00 – 14:00

Closed and transferred trusts

Academy trusts that cease operating or transfer to a new trust between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2019 should submit a final accounts return using the Accounts return 2018/2019: Excel workbook (XLSM, 8.84MB). If your trust ceased operating before 31 August 2019, please ensure the Excel workbook reaches us prior to the online form going live. We will not accept Excel returns for these trusts once the online form is open.

Your auditors must sign off your return and it must reflect transferring/closing balance of the trust. This can be completed whilst preparing the final financial statements for the trust. If your trust is due to cease operating or transfer, please contact us via the enquiry form and we will provide further details.

Why do we collect the accounts return from academy trusts?

ESFA requires all academy trusts preparing financial statements as at 31 August each year and/or with open academies as at 31 August in that year to submit an accounts return for the same year.

DfE uses the information provided in the accounts return to prepare the academies consolidated annual report and accounts, which consolidates the accounts of nearly 3,000 individual academy trusts to reflect the financial performance of the whole academy sector. It is prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (as amended for the public sector context) described in HMT’s financial reporting manual (FReM).

We ask academy trusts to complete the accounts return because DfE requires full accounting information. Individual trust financial statements do not provide the necessary information consistently and in accordance with the FReM to enable DfE to prepare the academies consolidated annual report and accounts.

Links to other content

These links are for other academy financial returns:

ESFA questions

If you have any questions about the accounts return, please contact us using our enquiry form.

Published 28 September 2017
Last updated 22 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. We have updated the accounts return page for the latest guidance and updates for the upcoming return.
  2. We have added a document to the academies accounts return guidance page to help trusts and their auditors prepare for the accounts return later this year. The document provides details about the key differences between the trust’s financial statements and the accounts return. The deadline for the accounts return is Monday 20 January 2020.
  3. We've updated the Excel template for trusts that have ceased operating since September 2018.
  4. We have updated the excel workbook with a new version.
  5. We have updated the "Barnett Waddingham- Actuarial Result Schedule 2018" and the "List of trusts and academies included within the aggregated balance counterparty entry" documents.
  6. We've updated the dates for the skype call - the next call will be on 3 December 2018 between 13:00 and 14:00.
  7. We've added details on how to contact us via webchat and updated the skype contact details.
  8. We've added a new version of the Excel workbook for users.
  9. Page updated to reinstate the link to the online form for the academies accounts return.
  10. Please note: The online form for the academies accounts return is currently unavailable due to technical issues. We expect to restore the system by 10am on 31 October 2018
  11. Updated to include extra guidance on how translate a trust's pension statement into the accounts return. Also updated Excel workbook and details for the validation error mapping to the Excel workbook.
  12. Updated with a link to the accounts return online form which is now live for academy trusts to use to complete and submit their accounts return by 21 January 2019.
  13. We have published the accounts return online form guidance, the form will go-live in October and your external auditors must submit your return by 21 January 2019
  14. We have updated the accounts return page to include a new document that explains the differences between the preparation for the financial statements and that of the accounts return. We will update this page next in September 2018 with the detailed guidance for the accounts return.
  15. We have addded a guidance video to provide further details about the accounts return process
  16. Updated as the accounts return online form is now closed for the 2016 to 2017 collection. It'll re-open in October 2018 for the 2017 to 2018 collection with a deadline of the 21 January 2019.
  17. Updated to add the Accounts return 2017 to 2018 Excel workbook for academy trusts that close or transfer between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2018.
  18. Updated with corrections to the Excel workbook and to add a new doument that provides a list of trusts and academies included within the aggregated balance counterparty entry.
  19. We've added a link to the most recent accounts return webinar.
  20. We've updated this page to include a link to the webinar broadcast on 9 November 2017 which introduces ESFA’s academies accounts return.
  21. Guidance updated (page 23, paragraph 103) to make clear that trusts should only use full time equivalents when calculating the staff gender analysis. Excel workbook updated following changes to the online form and some formula updates.
  22. Page updated to correct a formula in the Excel worksheet and to correct information about trustee remuneration on page 24 of the guide to completing the return.
  23. First published.