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16 to 19 education: financial management and assurance

ESFA today (26 Apr) updated their information about financial assurance and financial management of 16 to 19 institutions, including sixth-form and further education colleges that are funded by Education and Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA). 


Part of ESFA’s remit is to obtain financial assurance and support good financial management of those institutions it funds. You can read more about the funding ESFA provides in our detailed guide to 16 to 19 funding.

This guide helps local authorities, colleges and other 16 to 19 education providers understand their financial assurance and financial management responsibilities. Academies that provide 16 to 19 education are covered separately in the academies financial assurance detailed guide.

Post-16 audit code of practice

Post-16 audit code of practice sets out the common standard for the provision of assurance in relation to funding of post-16 providers. It includes specific guidance on assurance arrangements for sixth-form and further education college corporations and their auditors set out in a framework on regularity. It does not apply to academy trusts.

College financial planning handbook and financial planning template

The college financial planning handbook sets out a requirement on sixth-form and further education colleges to prepare a 3-year financial plan, using the template published alongside the handbook, and submit this to ESFA by 31 July each year.

The handbook sets out the approach used by ESFA to monitor and assess the financial health of colleges. The detailed guide ESFA 16 to 19 education: intervention and accountability provides more information on how ESFA assesses colleges’ financial health and financial control in line with its intervention policy.

College accounts direction and college accounts direction handbook

ESFA publish an accounts direction each year which sets out the financial reporting requirements for sixth-form and further education colleges, and what they must submit to ESFA by 31 December each year.

The supporting college accounts direction handbook is published separately by the Association of Colleges (AoC) and gives technical advice to colleges and their auditors on the application of the accounts direction, and underpinning accounting standards.

AoC publish other guidance on its website including accounting and governance.

Financial benchmarking tool for colleges

The financial benchmarking tool helps colleges compare their financial performance with others in the sector, and includes 2 years of financial data to 2016 to 2017.

College accounts data

ESFA publish college accounts data that allows sixth-form and further education colleges to compare their financial performance with colleges and other organisations. The information is consolidated from college finance records and includes 4 years of financial data to 2016 to 2017.

Independent Learning providers

The funding and assurance arrangements for independent learning providers is set out in detailed guidance.

What local authorities need to know

Local authorities need to gain assurance over 16 to 19 funding provided to the institutions in their areas. The assurance framework includes the items set out below. Local authorities may also find the post-16 ACOP useful.

Financial assurance on local authority-maintained institutions with sixth-form funding

ESFA has published a guide for local authorities on gaining assurance over funding provided for local authority-maintained institutions with sixth-forms.

Requirement for local authorities to submit grant returns to ESFA

For learners over 16, local authority chief financial officers are required to make grant return and use of funds statement on funds received from ESFA, These grant returns are due on 31 October each year.

Funding and assurance for high needs funding

The high needs funding operational guide 2017 to 2018 describes how the 2017 to 2018 high needs funding system will work for all types of provision. It provides key dates and activity for the delivery of 2017 to 2018 high needs funding. Assurance arrangements are set out in the post-16 audit code of practice.

Assurance for funding relating to the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund

ESFA also publish a non-mandatory guide for local authorities to gain assurance on institutions administering the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund correctly.

The audit approach applies directly to CCPs, and the principles of the approach are also relevant to other types of providers.

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