The good practice guide for anyone undertaking internal scrutiny in, or on behalf of, academy trusts has recently been updated.

Internal scrutiny in academy trusts enables effective oversight and monitoring of internal controls and is primarily aimed at trustees, audit and risk committees, accounting officers, and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs).

The publication of updated guidance makes this an opportune time for anyone involved in internal scrutiny to remind themselves of their key responsibilities and reporting requirements.

The coverage of internal scrutiny

Central to an internal scrutiny programme are financial control systems and the evaluation and testing of controls by a sample of transactions.

As the updated guidance reminds us though, the audit and risk committee may also want their scrutineers to review other key areas:

  • Financial governance and oversight;
  • Financial efficiency;
  • Strategic financial planning;
  • IT systems;
  • Cyber security;
  • Health and safety; and
  • Estates management

Additional, less obvious, topics that could also be reviewed:

  • Organisational culture;
  • Management information;
  • Anti-fraud;
  • Safeguarding;
  • HR systems; and
  • Succession planning

In summary, any financial or non-financial system that impacts on the effective operation of an academy trust could be included in the scope of the internal scrutiny programme.

Frequency of visits

There are no specific guidelines as to how often internal scrutiny visits should occur, therefore this is a topic often questioned by those involved in the process.

The revised internal scrutiny guidance does not give a definitive answer on the subject of frequency, however, it does reference factors to consider when setting a timescale. It states that there should be consideration of previous matters arising, external audit findings, individual context, and other sources of assurance that the trust has commissioned.

Visits should be timed to feed into audit and risk committee meetings, where interim findings can be discussed. It would therefore be appropriate for visits to be evenly spread throughout the year.

The updated guidance on internal scrutiny in academy trusts can be found here.

Should you have any queries on internal scrutiny in academy trusts, please get in touch with your M+A Partners contact or email

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