Academies Chart of Accounts and Automation

Price Bailey’s academies team recently hosted a webinar alongside a representative from the Department for Education (DfE), discussing the DfE’s vision and overview of the academies chart of accounts and automation.

Our team shared their first-hand experience of using automation and what this means for Trusts. This article contains a recording of the webinar and surrounding discussion.

Academies Chart of Accounts

The academies chart of accounts (CoA) is the DfE’s standard for financial data and underpins the academies accounts return and budget forecast return. The CoA is currently not mandatory, but the DfE is expecting trusts to adopt.

We’re seeing more trusts each year move to the CoA, with DfE statistics now showing that 51% of trusts across the county have implemented. The benefits of standardisation, enhanced data quality and improved benchmarking make this unsurprising.

Trusts looking to implement or switch software provider are encouraged to review the ESFA guidance on ‘choosing a trust’s financial management system’ here.


Using the academies CoA, the DfE has developed automation technology which enables trusts to electronically submit their trial balance data directly from their finance system to the DfE database, where it will then be used to pre-populate a large percentage of the accounts return and now part of the budget forecast return (BFR).

Although automation doesn’t complete all the accounts return, so preparer input is still needed, it does significantly reduce subjectivity over allocations as the technology automatically allocates to the appropriate section of the return. This is particularly relevant for income and expenditure coding used for the benchmarking section, making the data more consistent and reliable when using the Schools Financial Benchmarking Service.

Using the CoA correctly is key to effective automation. From our experience, automation is a great tool but the quality of output is dependent on the input. The input being the initial point of postings in the finance system and trusts need to ensure they are utilising the right CoA codes and following ESFA code guidance.

Any trusts who automated their 2022-23 accounts return, will have the added benefit this year of having their 2022-23 data pre-populated in the budget forecast return.

Watch here our Academy Insights Webinar: Chart of Accounts & Automation with the ESFA

Common posting issues we see within the CoA:




Overuse of code 510950 ‘Other DfE revenue grants’


Use all available codes and split out as much of the DfE funding as possible.


Deferred income not split out appropriately (e.g. deferred income DfE revenue grant, deferred income other)


A common issue we see is academies not using all available CoA codes needed for this area. Split accordingly between the relevant deferred income codes. E.g. 310500, 310510, 310550, 310560 & 310590.


Accrued income not split out appropriately


Split accordingly each year between the relevant accrued income codes available. E.g. 240200, 240210, 240220, 240230 & 240250.


Fixed asset additions not correctly split according to funding source (e.g. Additions from DfE capital grant, Additions Other)


Split accordingly between the relevant addition codes. E.g. Furniture & Equipment additions could either be posted to 140210, 140220 or 140230.

Lack of granular detail in ICT costs. From discussions with our clients it is evident since the new BFR reporting requirements were released, that trusts do not utilise the broad range of ICT codes available with the CoA. Utilise all codes that are available. For example (but not limited to):

820100 Technology Costs: Educational IT Equipment
820150 Technology Costs: Educ software & licences
820300 Technology Costs: ICT Support contract
820320 Technology Costs: ICT Hardware (not capital)
820350 Technology Costs: ICT Repairs
820370 Technology Costs: ICT Software (not capital)
820400 Technology Costs: ICT Licences
820420 Technology Costs: ICT Broadband
820450 Technology Costs: ICT Consumable
820470 Technology Costs: Printer Consumables
820500 Technology Costs: ICT Annual Maintenance
820520 Technology Costs: ICT Consultancy
820550 Technology Costs: ICT Hosting Fees
820570 Technology Costs: ICT Other

Support available

The ESFA run various free webinars, workshops and Q&A dial-in sessions throughout the year and details of these can be found on their website.

All our internal and external audit clients have access to our free Academy Helpdesk all year round. Every quarter, our academies team release a summary of the most important and frequently asked helpdesk queries. You can download a copy of these here.

We encourage our clients to contact the Helpdesk with any queries on the CoA to ensure correct and consistent mapping and postings.

Further support

If you would like support, advice, or have any further questions regarding this article including adopting the CoA and the automation process, you can contact our team using the form below.

Have a question? Ask a member of the team...


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