ESFA publishes annual report and accounts for 2022 to 2023

ESFA has published its annual report and accounts for 2022 to 2023

Today, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has published its annual report and accounts for 2022 to 2023.

David Withey, ESFA chief executive, said:

“It is my pleasure to present the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA’s) Annual Report for 2022 to 2023. This is the first reporting period following the implementation of recommendations in Sir David Bell’s arm’s length body (ALB) review which saw a number of significant changes to the agency’s remit aimed at ensuring a clearer focus on our core responsibilities.

As such, this reporting year has been one of transition for the agency as we have embedded those organisational changes, supported teams moving across to the Department of Education, and welcomed a new Executive Group who will lead the agency in this next phase. Those changes included a new Chief Executive – I started in August 2022, and I have greatly enjoyed my first few months in the role, working alongside colleagues in the agency and across the sector to ensure that every pound we invest is helping to support the best possible educational outcomes.

Some of the attention in my first few months has been on looking ahead to how we will support that goal within our new responsibilities. Much of that focus will be on three key outcomes – providing certainty to the sector to help support effective financial planning, ensuring that those we fund feel supported including in response to specific financial requests or needs, and assuring ourselves that taxpayers’ money is being used for its intended purpose.

The report reflects significant successes for one of the largest funding operations anywhere in government:

  • we allocated 67 billion of funding to more than 25,000 providers with 100% accuracy and timeliness and ensured that funding reached those providers through 507,000 individual payments with 99.9% accuracy and timeliness
  • our Counter Fraud and Prevention Team have continued to ensure low levels of fraud and error across the totality of funding provided

The context in which we have delivered that performance has been occasionally challenging – inflationary pressures and the ever-increasing importance of education and skills in a post-pandemic economy has placed additional stresses on providers, and highlighted the importance of ESFA supporting strong financial management across the sectors we work with. In the Further Education (FE) sector, the Office for National Statistics’ decision to reclassify colleges to the public sector has introduced additional uncertainty for sector leaders.

I am therefore pleased that this report reflects work that we are doing to support the sector effectively:

  • 92% of respondents reported a good or very good experience when using our School Resource Management Advisors, a fantastic (and free) resource aimed at supporting financial management in schools and academy trusts.
  • the publication of significant financial guidance and support related to FE reclassification, including a new capital loans scheme, has helped to bring clarity to FE colleges.
  • we have also expanded functionality in the ESFA Digital Funding Service, meaning that schools and FE colleges can access allocations and funding agreements in one place – saving providers time and improving customer experience.

I am very grateful to colleagues across the skills and education sector, both for the warm welcome they have afforded me, and for the constructive way in which they have sought to work with ESFA to address those challenges. Those conversations have, and will continue to, inform what we as an agency can do to ensure greater levels of support whilst ensuring our own financial governance, audit and oversight practices are world class.”

Martin Spencer, ESFA Chair, said:

“As I reflect on my first full financial year as Chair of ESFA, we should recognise our achievements and outstanding delivery successes against a backdrop of significant change.

Following the conclusion of the ALB review in February 2022, the ESFA’s remit re-focused onto 2 key areas:

  • successfully delivering £67 billion of funding to 25,000 providers in the education and skills sectors
  • providing assurance that these public funds are properly spent to achieve value for money for the taxpayer.

We also welcomed our new Chief Executive, David Withey, in August 2022. David defined a new vision for ESFA that strikes to the core of our purpose - to ensure every pound spent on education and skills has the greatest possible impact for learners so that they are able to realise their potential.

As the country emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, it was critical to get schools, colleges and all education providers back to normality to enable learners to progress and achieve their ambitions.

Whilst 2022 to 2023 represented a year of significant change for the agency, there were no significant impacts on ESFA’s performance or ability to meet our commitments.

We continued to perform strongly, providing £67 billion of timely and accurate funding to our education and skills sectors; moreover this was achieved with a 100% success rate for allocations and 99.9% for payments.

ESFA provided assurance over the proper use of public funds during this period and worked collaboratively with the sector to give certainty on funding, delivery and good financial management.

The past 12 months have presented a challenging fiscal environment nationally, not least for the education and skills sector. It’s important that we continue to find ways to make things simpler for the sector, through clear communications and straightforward, user-friendly systems and processes.

One such example has been to create a digital funding system that is easy to use, provides all the relevant information on funding in one place, and signposts frameworks and funding rules that give certainty on roles and responsibilities.

I am proud of the work we do and of our people and their commitment and performance over the past year. As a board, we will continue to work closely with the Executive Team, providing direction, support and guidance to enable the agency to continue to put learners at the heart of everything we do.”

Education and Skills Funding Agency