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Schools: Accountancy

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the implementation of the 2006-07 Consistent Financial Reporting Framework to support improved financial reporting and benchmarking by schools; (247202)

(2) whether the functionality to allow schools to be identified by name on the school financial benchmarking website has been implemented.

Consistent financial reporting provides a detailed breakdown of the income and expenditure of each maintained school in England. It was introduced in 2002-03 and has subsequently undergone only minor revisions.

The data underpin the schools’ financial benchmarking website. The site provides schools with the tools to compare their expenditure with that of similar schools. They can then tailor their spending and re-allocate resources to ensure that education spending reflects local educational policy and priorities and is effective in delivering them. During the 2007/08 academic year the site was accessed by over 10,000 schools and it is also used by local authorities.

There may be occasions where a school might want to contact another about its data, clarify their expenditure and discuss ways to address particular problems. In order to facilitate this, charts are now labelled with school names and their unique seven digit local authority and establishment number. Where names and number labels do not appear, the data have been suppressed in line with data protection rules to ensure that salary information for individuals cannot be identified. School names are only made available for registered users of the website, specifically schools and local authorities. Other users may access benchmarking information under ‘guest user’ terms but named data will not be visible to further protect the anonymity of individuals and schools.

In October and November 2008 the Department's efficiency and value for money team included CFR and benchmarking presentations in six regional conferences. These conferences were aimed at local authority education finance staff and auditors. Overall, participants were very positive about the effectiveness of the benchmarking website and CFR. They particularly welcomed the ease with which they were able to access information to allow comparison and to identify and flag up important resource trends.