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The new school year is here

13 September 2015

School business manager blog...

The new school year is here and September and October is certainly one of the busiest times of the year for school business managers. For the majority, it is the financial year end and the preparation of the financial statements will be underway and I am sure, like me, you have an extremely long list of audit requirements to prepare for the external auditors. It would be fantastic if we all had time to focus on finances at this time of year, but the responsibilities of the role are far greater that simply finance and it is the case of juggling the finance alongside HR, ICT, Estates and many other commitments.

Preparation, planning and delegation are my watch words to help me through this time of year. Below I have included my top five tips to ensure I am fully prepared and ready for the auditors’ arrival.

  1. I know it is a little bit late for this message, but keeping your records up to date throughout the financial year makes a significant difference to the amount of preparation time required ahead of the audit. A good month end process will ensure that records are input in a timely fashion and errors or miss-postings are identified early.
  2. Work alongside your internal auditors (or responsible officer if you have one) throughout the year. It is certainly best to treat the internal auditor as a critical friend, rather than an enemy who you can’t push out the building quick enough. Having an auditor in school can be a time consuming exercise, however their role is to ensure that you are fully compliant and taking heed of their advice can reduce the time you spend correcting errors at the year end.
  3. Plan out the audit work, ensuring you have as much time as possible to prepare schedules and reconciliations and therefore able to present the auditor with a complete audit file on arrival. If you haven’t received one already, contact the auditors as soon as possible and ask for a complete list of requirements. This will considerably reduce the number of onsite requests when the auditors arrive and should leave you in a position to focus on any queries that arise throughout the audit.
  4. Clear your diary. As a school business manager this is not the easiest thing to achieve, although I don’t manage it completely, I have learnt to keep my diary as free as possible during the two to three weeks the auditors are with me. Even the most prepared audit will still involve the auditors asking for information when they have arrived on site and the pressure to deliver will only increase if you are trying to juggle procurement, recruitment, and line management issues etc., not to mention the ad-hoc issues that will surely fly in your direction.
  5. Delegate or seek support. I am a bit of a 'control freak' and I like to have my records just so. I also strive to be the best in everything I do and therefore a clean bill of health from the auditors means a lot to me. This makes delegating difficult, but without distributing tasks to other members of my support team I would certainly begin to sink at this time of year. Trust your team and use those around you to help you through one of your busiest times of the year.

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