Covid-19: Operational challenges and opportunities for schools and academies

Published by Phil Reynolds on 31 March 2020

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Last updated 31 March 2020

With schools in lockdown and many primarily only operating with skeleton staff and pupils, staff might just be seeing the lockdown as an opportunity to “spring clean” or catchup on that “to do list”. But there are some important factors to consider.

Reporting deadlines

As yet the DfE have not announced any changes to the deadlines for submitting information in the sector. Therefore, schools and academies should continue to look to meet these deadlines. Up and coming deadlines include the submission of the Budget Forecast Return Outturn (BFRO) (due by 19 May) and submitting your Teachers Pensions Scheme EOYC (unaudited by 31 May).

Academy Trusts should also continue to provide their Chair of Trustees with monthly management accounts, a requirement of the Academies Financial Handbook.

Working with your suppliers

As we know, many businesses are and will struggle during the current lockdown therefore could your school or Trust help? Many suppliers will be concerned about short term cash draining away, so could any planned purchases be brought forward to help your supplier with their cashflow? In turn, you may also receive a discount if negotiated well.

Equally though, you need to be mindful of those suppliers who may ultimately be no more once “normality” resumes. Therefore, be careful that any services or supplies paid for upfront can be delivered – do not leave yourselves exposed. Of course, if a business does enter administration you can claim for any up front payment to be returned but there will be no guarantee of all of the monies being recovered.

Capital projects

Academy Trusts lucky enough to have received 2018/19 CIF monies should note that these are expected to have been spent by 31 March and looking to submit the final paperwork to the ESFA. However, the recent lockdown may have caused delays in the project completing on time.

Similarly, those Trusts large enough to receive SCA monies in 2018 should have these spent by 31 March. Again, any projects connected to 2018 SCA monies should be completing if they are still ongoing.

If you are experiencing delays due to the lockdown then do consider informing the ESFA of the problem rather than allow them to chase for information. Being open and transparent is key and in all honesty they are likely to accept that delays are inevitable due to the current situation.

You may also want to check in with your supplier if they can’t complete, they could be at risk of closure and then who would complete the project they started? There is no harm in checking they will still be around once this is all over.

Data protection and GDPR

Be mindful of this with so many staff potentially working from home as standards could slip. It would be helpful to remind staff of the importance of ensuring they comply with the schools rules and regulations regardless of their current working arrangements. In particular, ensure you have a policy in place for any paperwork that can be destroyed that may contain sensitive information.

With so many of us working with many changes being made in the background it is important we don’t forget some of the basics we apply day to day in a normal scenario. Hopefully this article has acted as a useful reminder of some areas to consider during the current situation, just as you would do in “normality”.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics above, please contact your usual Kreston Reeves contact or Phil Reynolds here.

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