A game of 20 questions

The Academies Financial Handbook refers to a document published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Education, Governance and Leadership entitled “20 key questions for the governing body to ask itself”. Now that everyone has come back refreshed after the Christmas break, this seems a good opportunity to review these questions both for Governors and Senior Leadership Teams (SLT). Although all the questions are useful, I will have a look at the ones more directly related to finance. I would urge all schools to have a look at the questions and consider how best they can be addressed. The link to review the questions is




Have we completed a skills audit which informs the governor specification we use as the basis for governor appointment and review?

The conversion to Academy status increased the responsibility of Governors, particularly in terms of managing the financial position and reserves of the school. It is important that the Governors have a good understanding of the overall position of the school in order to inform strategic decisions. The members of the finance committee should have a more detailed understanding. The Board needs to be satisfied that they have the necessary skills to do this either through the appointment of individuals with a finance background or training. Similarly, the SLT need to understand the financial position as this is likely to impact decision making and focus the team on finding “value for money” solutions.


How well do we understand our roles and responsibilities, including what it means to be strategic?

For both the Governors and SLT, it is important that they understand their role and responsibilities. In this way, both teams can work together to achieve the school’s strategy. Everyone needs to understand and agree with the strategy in order to develop a coordinated approach to achieving it.


Does our vision look forward three to five years, and does it include what the children who have left the school will have achieved?


Previously schools have tended to look 12 months in to the future but are increasingly developing plans for the next three to five years in line with reserves policies and the ability to manage funding. By planning for the long term, the school can incorporate capital requirements and take account of fluctuations in funding resulting from changes in pupil numbers. This means that a more stable staffing base can be maintained.   In the majority of schools, I would suggest that the focus is generally on final test or exam results for students but should also include the broader objectives of education in personal and social development.


Have we agreed a strategy with priorities for achieving our vision with key performance indicators against which we can regularly monitor and review the strategy?

The overall strategy should feed in to the school’s business plan and incorporate measurable indicators of achievement. These could include improvements in overall results, increases in pupil numbers, staff to pupil ratios and department costs, compared to results. These measures can then be reviewed on an ongoing basis so that the strategy can be amended if required.


How effectively does our strategic planning cycle drive the governing board’s activities and agenda setting?


The strategic planning cycle including objective setting, action planning and prioritising review and amendment should drive all other decisions and activities both for the Governors and SLT. This will provide the best opportunity for achievement of the objectives. Everyone involved should be aware of the timescales for the achievement of actions and understand how they fit with the overall strategy.


If you would like any further information please contact a member of the academies team at Moore and Smalley.