G5A – GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOLS AND EXTERNAL ASSESSORS –
COMPLETING THE ASSESSMENT FORM
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Financial Management Standard in Schools
G5A - Guidance for Schools and External Assessors -
Completing the Assessment Form
It is recommended that Schools and External Assessors read all of this guide, rather than just their specific guidance, to ensure a clear understanding of both perspectives. The Assessment tool allows a school to determine where it stands in comparison with the Financial Management Standard, which in turn helps it to achieve longer term improvements in financial management through targeted action planning. The evidence gathered when the assessment is initially completed by the school is necessary to inform the External Assessment process. There is a single assessment tool that is used by both schools and External 1Assessors.
How is it structured?
The Assessment tool is split into the following parts
; PART A – Outcome of the Assessment – To be completed by the External
; PART B – How to use the Assessment Tool – provides useful links for users
to this and other guidance notes.
; PARTS C & D – Background Details & Supporting information - For schools
to complete, requiring the entry of background details and any additional
; PART E – The Assessment against the Standard
The Assessment part of the tool is split in the same way as the Financial Management Standard, i.e. 5 sections - Leadership and Governance, People Management, Policy and Strategy, Partnership and Resources, and Processes, and covers the 18 areas. The assessment form has one header with six columns, and summary boxes at the bottom of each page. The purpose of these is as follows:
The Header - Repeats the Financial Management Standard. Each of the 18 areas of the Standard begins on a new page.
1) Criteria Reference, i.e. A, B, C etc
2) Assessment Criteria – sets out the criteria to meet each area of the
3) Exists – To be ticked if the individual criteria are being met 4) Does not exist – To be ticked is if the individual criteria are not being met.
1 Prior to the 2007 update, there were separate assessment tools for schools and External Assessors. Following feedback from users of the respective tools a decision was made to create a single Assessment tool.
5) Evidence– Evidence that backs up the judgement (from Column 3 or 4)
should be included here.
6) Assessor Comments – Comments from the Assessor regarding the
position of the school against each of the criteria should be entered here.
Summary boxes – Indicate whether the school has met or not met the Standard in each of the 18 sections (To be completed by the External Assessor).
A school‟s completed Assessment form should provide External Assessors with information regarding perceived areas of strength and weakness across the criteria. Whilst Assessors need to compare a schools‟ position against each of
the criteria, the completed Assessment form from the school should allow a risk based approach to the assessment itself that will enable more time to be focused on perceived weaker areas.
How Schools and External Assessors should complete the Assessment form.
For each area of the Financial Management Standard, a number of individual criteria are presented. User(s) should form a view as to whether these are reflected in the particular school, e.g. for section 1.1 of the Standard “The staff
and Governors have a shared understanding of their own financial management roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, and those of others”. A judgement
needs to be made as to whether a school meets the following criteria:
Assessment Criteria Exists not
There is a written statement of roles and
A responsibilities and it is clear, with no gaps or
overlaps in responsibilities.
The allocation of responsibilities to the Finance
Committee, Head Teacher and School Business B Manager (or equivalent) are reasonable given their
The Head Teacher and Governors can demonstrate
C an understanding of their responsibilities and the
scheme of delegation.
The Governing Body has approved the scheme of
delegation covering the Head Teacher, School D Business Manager (or equivalent) and the Finance
Responsibilities are brought to the attention of new E Governors.
Appropriate information concerning developments
F within the financial environment in which the School
operates is provided to Governors in a timely manner.
Guidance regarding the type of evidence that might be used for the individual criteria is available in document G5C – Possible evidence sources for the
Assessment Criteria. Schools should also check with their LA to see if a more detailed local version of document G5C has been developed.
Guidance for schools.
The most important aspect of completing the assessment for schools is the evidence column, where the user(s) should enter the evidence behind each judgement. Without documentary evidence there is little point in schools making a judgement as to “exists” or “does not exist”.
Guidance for External Assessors.
The assessor may need to alter the judgement by the schools, i.e. change “Exists” to “Does not exist”. If this is the case the Assessor should make
reference to the change in the Comments box. The main purpose of the Comments box for each of the criteria is to allow the Assessor to provide feedback, where appropriate, to the school regarding the evidence submitted and the relative position of the school against the criteria. This will result in a single document that has both the school‟s and Assessor‟s evidence and Assessor‟s
comments and decision as to the position against the Standard.
Whilst the evidence required is designed to be objective, it is important that the Assessors look beyond the “hard evidence”, particularly in relation to areas
where evidence relates to documents being in place. The Assessor should be looking to determine if what is on paper is being employed in practice. Evidence sources such as the inspection of minutes, interviews and the school‟s completed
Assessment form itself should prove useful in relation to this area. In effect Assessors should look to employ the accounting principle of substance over form. As noted above, Local Authorities may also want to consider issuing a more detailed local version of document G5C. Experience elsewhere suggests this saves time with schools knowing what type and detail of evidence the Authority requires.
Schools can complete the assessment form on line and are able to attach evidence to the submission. Local Authorities can access this information through the following link http://www.fmsis.info/default_la_home.asp
The Assessment Process for Schools.
Deadlines were set for all schools to meet the Financial Management Standard –
see document G1 for the timetable – and all schools were legally required to
meet the Standard by March 2010. The first round of re-assessments commenced in 2009 and detailed re-assessment guidance has been issued –
see document G5D.
Before an External Assessment is undertaken schools need to determine how they compare with the Standard in the most efficient manner. Issues schools need to consider are therefore:
(i) Which stakeholders should complete the assessment form – i.e. the Head
Teacher, the School Business Manager (or equivalent), the Finance
Committee where applicable, all Governors etc.
(ii) If more than one person or group completed the form - how should the
responses be amalgamated, i.e. by one individual or through a group
(iii) Should those completing the form use the web based tool or hard copies.
(iv) Once a consensus position is reached, how is the completed form taken
forward to all the Governors for approval.
Aside from workload related issues, the following factors should also be considered by schools when determining the answers to the issues above: (i) The expertise and knowledge of individuals within the school (ii) Accessibility to the internet
(iii) The eventual need for Governors to understand and agree the position of
their school against the FMSiS.
A possible method for a school could be for the Finance Committee (if applicable) to manage the process, allocating each of the 18 areas to the staff member of Governor with specific responsibility or knowledge the area. The completed assessment form should then be taken forward to a full Governor‟s meeting
where the school‟s response should be discussed and agreed upon, prior to its
submission to the External Assessment body. Where the school is required to submit an assessment form to comply with its Local Authority timetable, it would be appropriate for the Finance Committee (if applicable) to approve the assessment. However, at the next full Governors meeting, all Governors should have the opportunity to review the school‟s assessment.
Schools can complete the assessment form on line through the following link http://www.fmsis.info/default_schools_home.asp
If a school is submitting its completed assessment via the FMSiS website it is able to attach evidence to the submission. Previously schools had to either send hard copies in or send them electronically via email. Schools should check with their Local Authority regarding the local processes.
Submission to the Local Authority.
In order to inform the External Assessment process each school should complete the assessment form. This version should be agreed by Governors. It should include evidence that demonstrates why judgements (i.e. exists or does not exist) for each area of the criteria have been entered. Schools should check with the Local Authority regarding the process for submission of the completed assessment.
Meeting the Standard.
In order to determine if a School has met the Financial Management Standard Assessors need to do the following:
Tasks Action Once Completed
Determine the position of a school Complete the Exist or Does not Exist for against all of the criteria in the each of the Criteria Assessment Tool.
For each of the 18 areas of the
Standard make a judgement as to Complete the Met or Not Met boxes at the whether the Standard has been bottom of each page of the Assessment met, using the evidence collated Tool. regarding the criteria to inform this
Indicate whether the School has
met the FMSiS or not. Complete Section A of the Assessment A school can only be awarded Form. the FMSiS if all 18 areas of the
Standard have been met
It is important to note that for each of the 18 areas of the Standard a school does not have to have met all of the criteria in order to have met the individual area of the Standard. There is no prescriptive methodology from the DCSF as to the number of criteria that have to be met. Instead assessors need to use judgement to determine if the evidence shows that the school is meeting the overall Standard e.g. for 1.1, whether “The staff and Governors have a shared
understanding of their own financial management roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, and those of others”.
The element of discretion regarding compliance with the criteria is thought to be particularly necessary, given the diversity of the schools to be inspected. This is not to say that there is a variable Standard that applies, but rather that Assessors need to take into account risk and materiality when determining whether changes are needed by a school.
The External Assessment Process.
General document G7 (Click Here for G7) lists changes made to the Toolkit as
part of the annual update, which Assessors are expected to be aware of. The
following are of particular relevance to LAs and Assessors.
; An archives tab button facility has been added to the „LA access to completed
assessments’ screen. LAs can now archive any schools completed
assessment by selecting the appropriate date from a drop-down menu.
; A certificate template facility has also been added to the „LA access’ screen.
LAs are no longer required to obtain FMSiS certificates from the DCSF.
Instead, the template should be downloaded for completion and the certificate
issued to schools achieving the Standard through external assessment.
; A facility has been added for LAs to print / save each assessment form in
landscape orientation in Word or Excel rather than download the entire data.
The submission date should be clicked on to be able to view and save the
The External Assessment will either be arranged via the Local Authority or through a third party provider. Once arranged, the school will need to provide a completed assessment, along with supporting evidence, ideally clearly bookmarked. When submitting the documentation, the school will need to provide full contact details for all key contacts.
The External Assessor will then perform the assessment on the basis of this evidence. Once the assessment has been completed, the Assessor will inform the school and the LA of the outcome. Successful schools meeting the Standard will then receive a certificate from the LA bearing the FMSiS logo. 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 will commence from the financial year of the assessment that the school has met the requirements of the Standard. Please note that the certificate and logo will only be awarded to those schools meeting the Standard through External Assessment.
If a school narrowly fails to meet the Standard, the school will have 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. This 2. This category is at the discretion of the category is known as a conditional pass
Assessor. In making the decision regarding whether to give it, Assessors need to be mindful as to what is realistic to change within 20 days i.e. if there is a fundamental problem within the school it would be inappropriate. If a school is unable to provide sufficient evidence within the 20 days it will be deemed to have failed to meet the Standard. There will be no right of appeal beyond this process. In most cases an External Assessor will provide a list of recommended actions by the school. It is likely that all schools will receive recommendations, irrespective of whether they have met the Standard or not. Schools not meeting the Standard will need to liaise with the Local Authority to agree an action plan that will result in meeting the Standard at an appropriate future date.
Schools will need to be assessed once every three years.
The renewal date of the Standard is determined by the financial year in which a school has met the requirements of the Standard. However, this is not to say that the Standard should be ignored during the intervening period. In order to ensure that they continue to follow good practice with regard to financial management, schools should be mindful of any updates to the Standard (currently on an annual basis) and any changes to their own arrangements that may have financial management implications. For example, a staff restructure, changes to key posts such as the Head Teacher / School Business Manager (or equivalent), or the expansion of a school.
Keeping up to date with changes, both to the Standard and being mindful of internal changes, should mean that schools will meet the Standard during future External Assessments. The Standard can be withdrawn from a school it its financial management arrangements are considered to have fallen below the required standards. There is not a set process for this scenario. Local Authorities will need to establish their own local procedures.
During the first round of assessments schools sometimes found it difficult to provide evidence that demonstrated the assessment criteria were being met. Three of the main factors that contributed to this were:
(i) It was sometimes difficult to find appropriate evidence sources for
criteria within the Assessment tool.
(ii) Existing processes did not always provide documentary evidence of
good financial management (despite it being embedded).
(iii) Schools that were required to alter existing arrangements in order to
meet the criteria did not have the revised arrangements embedded
within the school.
These factors led to Assessors providing greater latitude with regard to the meeting of the assessment criteria, in order not to over burden schools with providing evidence and/ or delaying the assessment process. The second round of assessments that began with secondary schools in 2009/10 should not encounter such problems.
2 This category was previously known as a “narrow fail”.
In relation to (i), due to ongoing feedback from stakeholders the assessment criteria have been refined and updated in order to remove subjective and hard to evidence areas. Local Authorities are also providing clearer guidance to schools regarding what evidence is required through local versions of document G5C. Schools have also been able to refine existing processes to ensure evidence is available, thereby reducing issues regarding (ii). For (iii), schools that amended arrangements in order to meet the Standard should have up to 3 years worth of evidence that the new arrangements are embedded within the school.
Schools therefore should be aware that for the second round of
assessments that began in 2009/10, Assessors will no longer be providing latitude regarding the evidence presented by schools. In addition, where recommendations were made during the initial assessment, Assessors will be expecting these to have been applied and in good time to provide evidence that the changes made are embedded within the school.
The following have been suggested for consideration, based on feedback from schools and Local Authorities:
; It may be beneficial to schools to keep an up to date folder that continues to
demonstrate how it meets the Financial Management Standard. For the
majority of the criteria this should only mean altering references to reflect
updated versions of documents, e.g. the SIC.
; The previous version of the Assessment tool (that was designed specifically
for schools) had additional columns for action planning purposes i.e. “action
needed, by when and by whom”. Schools within certain Local Authorities
have been making use of these columns in preparation for the External
Assessment process. Whilst these columns no longer exist, schools are free
to adapt the Assessment tool, in terms of its format, in order to suit local
Training for schools and External Assessors.
Since 2005 IPF (now called CIPFA Business Ltd) has delivered training to over 150 local authorities and private sector bodies explaining the background to FMSiS and how to approach the assessment process. The training should provide an element of consistency and is tailored to suit school staff and governors, local authority finance and audit staff and third party Assessors. It is still available, and interested parties should contact James Rooney by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or his colleague Richard Whiter by telephone on
01380 739841 or 07507 864596.
The NASBM also runs FMSiS training workshops. Their contact for further information is Diane Gregory – telephone 01788 573300 or e-mail
External Assessment Training, Review and Quality Assurance. LAs are responsible for deciding and communicating who carries out external re-assessments, and need to do this at the outset when identifying the schools to be re-assessed.
LAs are expected to ensure that all Assessors have received initial and refresher training, to be aware of annual updates to guidance, provided either in-house, by
CIPFA or the NASBM, and to make use of the LA training funds provided by the DCSF for such training.
In addition to initial and refresher training, nationally accredited Assessors are expected to have at least 4 years audit or accounting experience in the public or private sector. The DCSF will make regular quality assurance checks where nationally accredited Assessors carry out assessments, provide the companies with feedback from these checks, and ask them to resolve any issues directly with the school / LA.