FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT STANDARDS IN SCHOOLS - FMSiS INTRODUCTION- BACKGROUND On 21st July 2005, the Government announced its expectation that all secondary schools should meet the Financial Management Standard in Schools (FMSiS) by March 2007. There will be a requirement for the S151 Officer (CFO) to sign a declaration attached to the S52 outturn, to the effect that relevant schools either meet the FMSiS or are subject to appropriate action to ensure they meet the FMSiS. Schools cannot opt out of this arrangement – all secondary schools will be expected to meet the standard. Camden Scheme for Financial Schools will be amended to require schools to demonstrate achievement and maintenance of the standard and to allow compulsory external assessment. The Standard itself is a simple statement of what a school that is financially well managed would look like. It provides a clear and consistent benchmark that schools can use to encourage self-improvement. The Standard is intended to cover standards and processes that should already be in place in schools, rather than to introduce a new, higher standard. The Standard is intended to help schools in evaluating the quality of their financial management and to aid in training staff to become better financial managers. Effective financial management in schools is essential so that they can make the most of their resources, demonstrating value for money, exercise proper control over significant amounts of public money delegated to them; and allocate resources effectively to meet school priorities for development and improvement. The FMS self-evaluation tool is available on www.fmsis.info and its use will allow schools to submit their self-assessments to the LA for review. THE EXPECTATION As local authorities will be responsible for confirming their schools’ adherence to the Standard, it will be up to them to decide how that compliance is delivered. The evidence to support the declaration is a matter for the CFO’s judgement – it need not rely on formal FMSiS assessment of every individual school. If schools do not have an external assessment, a review of their self-assessment (which they will shortly be able to submit online) may provide the LA with the appropriate information to make the judgement. CFO’s will of course also take account of relevant comments in the reports of auditors, advisers and inspectors, of budgetary and accounting performance, and of any other relevant information available. This supplementary material is likely to be given increasing weight as time elapses since the last FMS assessment. In the case of schools that are currently not meeting the Standard, the statement will include a declaration that appropriate steps are being taken to rectify this and ensure that those schools will meet the standard over the ensuing twelve months. The Department is in discussion with Ofsted about how best to link in achievement of the standard to the existing inspection framework. This could mean having adherence to the standard as one of the statutory requirements under leadership and management in part C of the Self-Evaluation Form. The Department has consulted on extending the standard to primary and special schools with a view to phased implementation between 2008 and 2010. FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT STANDARDS IN SCHOOLS - FMSiS EXTERNAL ASSESSMENT In order for an external assessment to take place, schools will have to provide evidence that they have met the requirements of the Standard through use of the self evaluation tool. This will involve providing documented evidence to the assessor prior to the assessment process. Local Authorities will decide of which of the four options below will be available for their schools. Possibilities are: 1. Camden Internal Audit Officers; 2. Camden Local Authority Finance Officers 3. Local third party assessors accredited by the LA ( which can include finance officers from neighbouring authorities) – third party external 4. National third party assessors ( accredited by the DfES) - third party external The Schools Forum decided that for Camden our Internal Auditors will be the external assessors and the charge for the assessment will be £700. The Local Authority will identify a named contact person to co-ordinate external assessments and for the self assessment form to be sent to. Once this has been arranged, the school will need to provide a summary of the self assessment tool along with supporting evidence, clearly bookmarked. The external assessor would then perform the assessment on the basis of the evidence. They will not be expected to visit the school in the majority of cases. The DfES estimate that initially, assessors may take up to 1 or 2 days to perform the assessment, but over time this should reduce considerably. The time will vary according to the amount of follow-up required with the school to provide the evidence required to meet the standard. Once the assessment has been completed, the assessor will inform the school of the outcome. If the school is successful, the assessor will also inform the DfES of the outcome using the email@example.com email address. Successful schools meeting the standard will then receive a Certificate from the Department bearing the new FMSiS logo. The certificate and logo will only be awarded to schools meeting the Standards through external assessment. The Financial Management Standard is awarded to the school for good financial management practices, rather than to any individual, and will require renewal every three years. The renewal date of the Standard would commence from the date of the assessment that the school has met the requirements of the Standard. UNSUCCESSFUL SCHOOLS If the school does not meet the required criterion, they will receive a written report on what they need to do to meet these requirements. The summary provided to the school postassessment would clarify those areas in need for improvement. If a school narrowly fails the Standard, for example by one sub-section only, the school would be given a total of 20 working days grace in order to provide the additional evidence required to meet that criterion, before a final decision is made, without additional charge. Assessors will be allowed flexibility in their own judgement as to what constitutes a narrow failure. There will be no right of appeal beyond this process.