The Education Authority provides online guidance here.
Click on ‘Every School a Good School’ – The Governors Role – A Guide for Governors’ and then click on ‘Governor Guide 2017’ to inform and assist Governors in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities in relation to the school.
Reporting of Thefts
Schools continue to be targeted by individuals pilfering items such as heating oil, lead on roofs, cash and laptops.
The Department of Education’s ‘Guidance on Financial and Management Arrangements for Controlled and Maintained Schools Funded Under The Common Funding Scheme’ states at paragraph 6.18 ‘Whenever any matter arises which involves or is thought to involve irregularities concerning cash, stores, property or other assets of the ELB*, the Board of Governors or Principal shall forthwith notify the Chief Executive who shall take such steps as are considered necessary by way of investigation and report’. It is very pleasing to see that many schools have contacted the Education Authority and PSNI when such incidents occur.
Phishing is the fraudulent act of emailing a person in order to obtain their personal/financial information such as passwords and credit card or bank account details. These emails often include a link to a bogus website encouraging you to enter your personal details.
Do not give out private information (such as bank account details, passwords and pin numbers), reply to text messages, download attachments or click on any links in emails if you are not sure they are genuine. Do not cut and paste a link from the message into your web browser – phishers can make links look like they go to a genuine site, but then actually take you to a look-alike site.
If you have reservations about the authenticity of the information received, contact the organisation using a phone number you know to be genuine, or open a new internet browser session and type in the company’s correct web address yourself. Using and maintaining up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall can also help.
‘Fraud: Spot it, Stop it!’
Unfortunately the level of resources available in the school can be impacted by fraud. These are some of the indicators that your school may be at risk of fraud:
- Expensive lifestyle in comparison to their salary
- Personal problems (gambling, alcohol, drugs, debt etc)
- Conflict of interests (personal and business relationships)
- Disgruntled employee, who believe they receive inadequate compensation and/or rewards (recognition, job security, vacations, promotions etc)
Possible Methods of Committing/Concealing Fraud
- Members of staff not taking leave or an insistence on doing the job alone
- Annoyance at questions
- Unreasonable explanations to questions asked
- Missing documents
- Documents written in pencil, altered or using false signatories/incorrect person signing
- Records maintained are inadequate, not updated or reconciled
- Teeming and Lading (allocating one payee’s money to another in order to make the books balance to hide a shortfall or theft)
- Manipulating school meals income records by transferring free meal entitlements of absent pupils to paying pupils.
Everyone has the responsibility to report suspected or actual fraud in accordance with the Department of Education’s ‘Guidance on Financial and Management Arrangements for Controlled and Maintained Schools Funded under the Common Funding Scheme’ 2005.
Hospitality Guidelines for Schools
In accordance with a direction from the Department of Education, Board of Governors are required to agree and adopt a Hospitality Policy. Any hospitality provided by the school should be in accordance with the principles contained therein. A model Hospitality Policy can be found here, if required.
H&S Annual Inspection
Health and safety in schools is an essential part of your and the Board of Governors responsibilities. An annual health and safety inspection should be completed at your school and a checklist to assist you with this can be accessed from the following link.
Any issues detected through the inspection should be reported to the relevant department within the Education Authority.
Use of Facilities
An official UF1 form should always be issued for completion by an applicant/organisation wishing to use school facilities. Charges for each applicant/organisation should be considered by the Board of Governors and set to give full cost recovery, or at least the minimum return required to cover overheads e.g. caretaker’s salary and utility costs.
The completed UF1 form should then be sent to the Education Authority to enable invoices to be issued and outstanding debts to be pursued, if required. Charges established should be subject to an annual review by the Board of Governors.
If income (either by cash/cheque) is received from an applicant/organisation for the use of facilities at school, it should be lodged to the school’s private fund account and a cheque written and forwarded to the Education Authority.
Use and Maintenance of E-mail Address
To protect school data, official school email accounts should be used at all times e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org or @schoolname.ni.sch.uk. Under no circumstances should other email accounts be used to share data relating to the school. Remember it is crucial to manage the ‘Inbox’ by regularly archiving emails and maintaining sufficient space to allow new emails to be received.
Laptops, tablets and smart phones are portable and highly desirable devices. As a result, this type of device is at greater risk of theft, both for the device itself and for any data that may be held on it. It is therefore important to ensure that staff are reminded of the following:
- Guidance regarding devices used and their security should be adhered to at all times
- Laptops, tablets and mobile devices should not be left in full view in a vehicle even for a short period of time; they should be locked in the boot. Furthermore they should not be left in a vehicle overnight
- A password or pin code must be used in order to protect information held on laptops and mobile devices
- School related data should only be held on laptops for the specific time required and should be removed when it is no longer needed
- Backup copies of school related data should be made and copies stored very securely
- Personal data should not be stored or processed on any school laptop or external memory device.
Additionally you should ensure that staff are either trained or given written guidance in respect of handling, storage and secure disposal of personal or sensitive data.
Monitoring of LMS Expenditure (Extended Schools, Shared Education)
At this time of reduced funding a significant concern for you is keeping within budget, therefore regularly monitoring of income going in and the expenditure going out of your LMS budget is essential. To appropriately do this, you should be aware of all the sources of income available to you including those from LMS and any other external funders or ear-marked budgets e.g. DSD, Extended Schools and Shared Education. It is imperative that you maintain control of the expenditure from each of these funding streams to ensure this remains within the funds allocated and that LMS monies are not used to subsidise any overspends from other funding streams.
It is also recommended that you retain invoices for each funding source in separate folders to facilitate your reconciliation of each.It is also important for you to check the income and expenditure recorded on the detailed transaction reports (DTRs) to confirm they are accurate and appropriate, as human errors can occur.
To fulfil the financial responsibilities delegated to you by the Board of Governors you should present the up-to-date financial position of the school as a standing agenda item at each meeting of the Board of Governors.
Compliance with Attendance Procedures for Teachers & Non-Teaching Staff In Schools
To help to achieve the Department of Education’s RAP target for Teacher Absence (5 days), the Board of Governors should comply with the guidance set out in the TNC 2008/2 (amended) ‘Teacher Attendance Procedure’. Additionally the ‘Managing Attendance at Work’ policy for non-teaching staff should also be adopted.
In summary the Principal should ensure that:
- they meet with each member of staff who returns to work following a period of sickness absence. This meeting should be documented and retained at the school
- members of staff complete a Self-Certification Certificate to cover the first 7 days of any absence through sickness
- contact is maintained with members of staff during illnesses
- sick pay is effectively monitored and verified using the monthly finance reports
- responsibility for health, welfare and attendance is designated to a governor
- Board of Governors receive regular reports on teachers’ and non-teaching sickness absence
- attendance management is a standing agenda item at each Board of Governor meeting timely referrals are made to the Occupational Health when appropriate.
Salaries & Wages
Schools are now submitting electronic time-sheets to the Education Authority to enable salaries and wages to be paid to staff. It is essential that when time-sheets are submitted a copy is also printed, signed and dated and retained for 7 years by the school in accordance with the Department of Education’s ‘Disposal Schedule for Schools’.
Use of Credit/Debit Card
The use of a school credit/debit card should be formally approved by the Board of Governors before an application is made. Written procedures should be provided to oversee the security of the cards, the authorisation of use and review of transactions.