Academies Update Conference

Designed for firms who advise academy clients, do not miss your opportunity to gain insights and elevate your advisory skills to new heights.

This content-packed conference will cover effective risk management, navigating through sector mergers and acquisitions and much more, helping to equip you with the knowledge and strategies needed to support your academies clients.

Who should attend the conference

Mercia's Academies Update conference is a must-attend event for accounting professionals who serve as trusted advisors to academy schools.


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Full conference agenda

Simon Oxenham, Southend High School for Boys

Using a blend of humour and hard-hitting facts this session will:

  • Articulate why there is an impending schools’ financial crisis.
  • Look at budget considerations and risks.
  • Share some of the changes and impending changes for the sector.
  • Provide an update on the reality of ‘being brave’.

James Hurst, Mercia Group Ltd

This session will provide an overview about how VAT applies to academies, with a focus on some of the common challenges.

Stephen Morales, Chief Executive, Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL)

The session will cover:

  • Helping practitioners stay informed 
  • Helping with the really technical stuff 
  • Staying ahead of policy and regulatory changes 
  • Advising on clever things and supporting innovation

Chris Whiting, Academy Advisory

A briefing on current risks facing academy trusts and solutions being bought to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of central services. 

Mark Blois, Brown Jacobson

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

Adrian Loughlin and Ciaran Henry, Hymans Robertson

This session will cover: 

  • FRS102 assumptions - methodology and impact.
  • Outlook for 31 August 2024 year end – indicative results commentary for the average employer based on current markets.
  • Audit hot topics - including asset ceiling and inflation.

Gemma Archer, Mercia Group Ltd

This session will provide an overview of the changes to the Academies Accounts Direction 2023-24 and how these will affect accounts preparation and audit engagements for the period ending 31 August 2024.

Gemma Archer, Mercia Group Ltd

This session will cover key topics relevant to academies for the 2024 reporting cycle.

Conference speakers

Simon Oxenham

Simon is the Director of Resources for Southend High School for Boys in Essex and the ISBL National Lead on school finance and efficiency. As a qualified accountant, a project manager and lean practitioner, he spent a number of years working in the charity sector and a lot of his career working on finance system-related projects, including a period working for one of the UK’s largest software consultancy firms. 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 ESFA, and, on behalf of ISBL. He is also a member of one of ESFA’s Financial Assurance working groups and the ISBL Funding Special Interest Group. 

James joined Mercia in October 2022 as VAT trainer and consultant. His role involves writing technical material as well as devising and delivering VAT training courses. James has a wide experience of VAT and indirect tax, beginning his VAT career with HM Customs & Excise (as it then was) before moving to the private sector in 1995 and gaining his CTA qualification. Latterly, he had VAT partner and head of VAT roles in Grant Thornton and Mazars. James was actively involved with the Charity Tax Group for a number of years and has presented on VAT topics for the Charity Finance Group.

Outside of work, music remains a keen interest. Aside from playing jazz on the tenor sax, James is a regular member of the trumpet section of the Leeds Project Big Band.

Stephen has a 20-year career history in operations and finance, working at a senior level in the public and private sectors, both in the UK and abroad.

Stephen presided over the development and implementation of nationally recognised school business leadership professional standards and led the transition from the National Association of School Business Management to the Institute of School Business Leadership.

Stephen works closely with the Department for Education in areas of policy reform, and his commitment to research to aid our self-improving system includes ongoing engagement with international jurisdictions including Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the US.

Chris Whiting

Chris Whiting is the managing director of Academy Advisory and has previously held CFO positions for a number of academy trusts. 

Academy Advisory is a specialist provider of internal audit and consultancy services to the academy sector with over 300 academies nationwide. Its services cover all aspects of academy trust operations, including areas such as educational improvement, safeguarding, finance, HR, ICT, estates and governance. Chris has worked closely with the DofE and ESFA on a number of engagements including anti-fraud response and academy turnaround in addition to his work as an internal auditor.


Mark Blois

Mark is a Partner in, and the founder of, the Education team at Browne Jacobson and has almost 30 years’ experience as an education lawyer. He is recommended as a leader in his field in the industry directories Chambers UK and Legal 500. Chambers UK describes Mark as ‘a true leader in the sector’ and Legal 500 includes him in their 'Hall of Fame' highlighting law firm partners who are 'at the pinnacle of the profession'. Mark also has over 20 years’ experience of serving in governance in the education sector and between 2011 and 2021 Mark was the Chair of the L.E.A.D Academy Trust, a now 27-school multi-academy trust. Mark has also served as a DofE designated National Leader of Governance. 

Adrian Loughlin

Adrian is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries within the Hymans Robertson’s public sector team, advising Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) and employers across the UK. He is one of the actuarial leads in the public sector accounting team responsible for delivering over 4,000 annual IAS19 reports for local authorities and FRS102 disclosures for academies. Within his role Adrian speaks to stakeholders across the sector including employers, auditors and the NAO on methodology and ongoing audit issues. 

Ciaran Henry is an Associate of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries within the Hymans Robertson’s public sector team, advising LGPS and employers across the UK. He is one of the accounting specialists in the public sector accounting team responsible for delivering over 4,000 annual IAS19 reports for local authorities and FRS102 disclosures for academies. Within his role Ciaran is responsible for the training and development of actuarial staff at Hymans and the planning and delivering of IAS19 and FRS102 exercises for employers across the LGPS throughout the year.

Gemma jointly leads the team responsible for Mercia’s file and compliance reviews, including performing reviews at client sites or remotely. She also lectures on Mercia’s Early Careers Programme and on specialist areas such as charities and academies, ESG and Mercia methodology, as well as advising clients on technical queries.

Gemma joined Mercia from audit practice in January 2021, where she had worked for 13 years, specialising in not-for-profit and charity clients for over a decade. Gemma has a keen interest in academies and sits on several ESFA working groups.

One Day Conference
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Previous Academies Update Conferences

Explore the programme of our previous Academies Update Conferences:

2023 Academies Update Conference

2022 Academies Update Conference