Creating a positive culture around internal scrutiny

Internal scrutiny: friend or foe? Internal scrutiny: friend or foe?

Internal scrutiny is an important part of your trust risk management and should be seen as a tool that provides reassurance, unbiased advice and strategic recommendations for your organisation. However, it is often viewed as a 'scary' audit where an outside company is picking fault with the processes and procedures in your trust. This shouldn't be the case.

So how do you embed a positive culture around internal scrutiny in your trust?

The first thing to remember is that recommendations made following an audit are presented to help strengthen and protect your trust from risk, rather than as a finger pointing at mistakes or things that have been forgotten. Building positive language with your team around your internal scrutiny partner and the work they are doing is helpful if people are nervous about systems they have put in place being audited. Your internal scrutiny partner is an independent set of eyes who, whilst looking in detail at your systems and practices, is on your side and wants to help you to succeed.

A helpful metaphor for internal scrutiny visits is to liken them to hiring a physical trainer or a sports coach; whilst they will look at what you are doing and tell you how to do it better, they work for you and, ultimately, have your best interests at heart.

The frequency of your internal scrutiny can play a large role in the process becoming a normal part of trust operations rather than a threat. If all your internal scrutiny is carried out in the same term, it becomes a big part of your team's remit and can be seen as getting in the way of other tasks. Carrying out an audit every term, however, ensures that the need to complete internal scrutiny creates minimum disruption and becomes a regular part of the termly cycle. This also plays nicely with the Academy Trust Handbook that states that internal scrutiny should be a regular process throughout the year. This regular approach also allows your internal scrutiny partner to develop a regular relationship with your team, which removes some of the perceived threat.

Another point is that internal scrutiny is just that – internal. It's not a judgement that is published like your external accounts audit or Ofsted grading. The results stay within your organisation (except for the annual report to the DfE). The results go to your trustees the same as attendance figures, educational outcomes and financial performance will, as a tool to be used to better your trust. Internal scrutiny recommendations help you to protect your trust from risk and ultimately benefit pupils by ensuring resources are protected and used properly.

As well as helping to protect your trust from risk, internal scrutiny brings other positive aspects to your trust management. It provides opportunity to praise colleagues who have set up efficient systems or are using them well, gives you some independent validation of the great work you're doing and suggests improvements that focus on making your organisation better, not just compliant.

Keystone Knowledge's team of school experts are here to help you create an effective internal scrutiny programme that benefits your trust. Find out more here. 

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