Academies Update Conference 2022

Designed for firms who advise academy clients, do not miss your opportunity to hear the latest position for the sector at our one-day conference. Our conferences will cover up-to-date accounting and financial reporting regimes, as well as regulatory responsibilities, putting you in the best position to help meet your clients’ challenges, and add value to your client relationships.

Programme correct at the time of publication. Mercia Group reserve the right to change the programme and speakers as a result of circumstances beyond our control.


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Full conference agenda


Simon Oxenham, Southend High School For Boys

Simon will update delegates on:

  • The challenges of this academic year
  • Any relevant funding updates from the DfE
  • The impact of COVID-19 on schools this year
  • Thoughts on budgets and forecast assumptions
  • Changes to look out for that might get missed

Mark Blois, Browne Jacobson LLP

Mark will give a review of developments in the academies sector including recent practical experiences of acting for and advising growing trusts.


Chris Whiting, Academy Advisory

Chris will provide an update on internal audits and will also consider the changing attitude towards internal audit within academy trusts.


Craig Alexander or Tom Hoare, Hymans Robertson

This session will cover current pension topics affecting academies, what this means to conversations you have with your clients, and what to look out for from an accounting perspective.


Neil Owen, VAT Advisory Services Limited

In this session Neil will focus on a handful of VAT issues that have been perennial areas of concern for academies, drawing on recent experience in encountering them in practice. 

This will include sporting facilities, nurseries, breakfast and after-school clubs, holiday clubs and the choice between VAT registration and making VAT126 claims.


This session from the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)  will give an update on information needed from academy trusts in 2022 and discuss other hot topics including outcomes from the 2021 audit season and other relevant ESFA publications and activities.


David Smith

In this session, David will run through the practical implications of recent changes to the Accounts Direction and Academy Trust Handbook as well as provide an update on other guidance, publications and regulatory feedback relevant to the sector.


David Smith

David will take us through ways that audit engagements with academy trusts of different, and evolving, shapes and sizes can be structured and performed to ensure they stay profitable without stumbling on quality pitfalls.

Conference speakers


Simon is the Director of Resources for Southend High School for Boys in Essex and the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) national lead on school finance. As a qualified accountant and project manager, he spent a number of years working in the charity sector and a lot of his career working on finance system-related projects.

Simon also worked in one of the largest FE colleges in the country so has knowledge of both charity and education accounting. Simon is well known across the sector having delivered numerous training sessions and presentations with the Education Funding Authority (EFA), and, on behalf of NASBM. He is also a member of one of the EFA’s Financial Assurance working groups.


Mark is Head of the Education team at Browne Jacobson and has over 25 years’ experience as an education lawyer. He is recommended as a Leader in his field in the industry bibles ‘Chambers UK’ and ‘Legal 500’. ‘Chambers UK’ has dubbed him “an industry leader” and ‘Legal 500’ has described him as “exceptional” and has included him
in their “Hall of Fame”, which highlights to clients the law firm partners who are ‘at the pinnacle of the profession’.

Mark also has over 20 years’ experience of being involved in governance across the education sector and between 2011-2021 Mark was the Chair of the L.E.A.D Academy Trust, a 25 school multi-academy trust. Mark has been designated a National Leader of Governance by the Department for Education.


Chris is a Certified Chartered Accountant who has specialised in the education sector over the past 15 years, working as a finance director within multi-academy trusts and as an advisor to the sector. Chris formed Academy Advisory in 2014 to provide a range of services to the academy sector including: audit, assurance, consultancy, finance support and finance director services. Chris is responsible for over 70 academy audits in addition to his work as a finance director and advisor to a broad range of single and multi-academy trusts.


Craig is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and has been with Hymans Robertson’s public sector team since 2009, advising Local Government Pension Schemes and employers across the UK. He leads the public sector accounting team responsible for delivering IAS19 reports for local authorities and August FRS102 figures to academies. He has also worked closely with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to help improve the accounts returns process for academies and their auditors.


Tom is a support actuary, working within the Public Sector team at Hymans since 2014. Tom works across a number of different LGPS funds and has valuable experience of the challenges that face employers within the LGPS.

Tom has presented to committees, officers and employers on a wide range of topics during this time. Tom is also one of the actuaries within our central accounting team. This team provides advice and direction on accounting matters across the wider Public Sector team. Tom is involved in  dealing with employer specific issues and liaising with auditors and other external bodies. Tom attends and presents to auditors and accountants at conferences.


Neil Owen is an independent consultant, speaker and occasional writer.  He has specialised exclusively in VAT since 1984 when he joined HM Customs & Excise as a VAT officer. He entered professional practice in 1990, working for regional accountancy firms in the Thames Valley and Solent areas before establishing his own VAT consultancy practice in 2007.  

Neil is a Fellow of the CIOT, an Associate of the Institute of Indirect Taxation, and a Fellow of the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants. For 10 years he was the National Secretary of the VAT Practitioners Group and for 6 years was the editor of the book, CCH VAT Planning.

Neil has taken a close interest in VAT for academies for over ten years and continues to advise a number of clients in the sector, mainly MATs, on a regular basis. He is an experienced and enthusiastic lecturer, with the unusual reputation for making VAT interesting.


David spent 10 years at Mercia where he lectured, performed quality review and consultation services, developed their academies specialist assignment manual and training resources and acted as Director of Assurance and Accounting Content between 2018 and 2020. In September 2020 David became Audit Quality and Technical Director at Azets and an independent lecturer.

David plays an active role with committees and working groups at ICAEW and ESFA and is a member of the ICAEW’s Technical and Practical Auditing Committee and the ESFA’s working group responsible for development of the Academies Accounts Direction.

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