Diploma in School Financial and Operational Leadership

An innovative programme developed by CIPFA and the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) for current and aspiring chief finance and operations officers.

Book now

About the course

The Diploma in School Financial and Operational Leadership (formerly the Certificate) recognises that school business professionals are increasingly important, especially in academies and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) and aims to ensure that you meet the highest professional standards when it comes to overseeing (amongst other things) finance, corporate governance, risk management and strategic procurement. It is broadly equivalent to a level seven (postgraduate) qualification in terms of complexity.

This programme has been designed to meet professional standards, as developed by the key sector stakeholders and practitioners, and is recognised by the Department for Education. It takes into account your past qualifications and provides a flexible blend of e-learning, workbooks and face-to-face sessions to enable you to develop your skills in:

  • financial management and reporting
  • the education funding environment
  • writing business cases and taking investment decisions
  • governance, accountability and assurance
  • procurement and contract management
  • liaising with, and providing information to, internal and external auditors

Download the course brochure for full details

Who is the course aimed at?

  • professionals who aspire to be chief finance officers or chief operating officers in schools and academies
  • those working in a senior position within finance or business management
  • those working inside and outside education

Course outline

The programme is made up of nine modules that are delivered in three stages:

  • Foundation covers the first module and will provide you with basic skills and knowledge about academy finance and operations, allowing you to undertake the second and third stages of the programme with confidence.
  • Intermediate builds on this knowledge, covering complex issues around the finance and operations of academies and school structures.
  • Practitioner will equip you with the knowledge and experience to tackle more complex issues around the finance and operations in academies and school structures. It will provide contextual knowledge for those operating in high-level finance positions, but not familiar with the education sector, and will also assist those school business management (SBM) professionals already in the sector who wish to expand and develop their role.

Depending on the qualifications you may already hold, you may be exempt from some of the modules.


The qualification takes either one year or six months to complete, depending on which qualifications you may already hold.


You will be assessed via a multiple choice exam and a portfolio of evidence.

CIPFA membership

On successful completion of the programme, you will receive exemptions if you wish to go on to complete the CIPFA Professional Qualification.

Alternatively you can apply for CIPFA Affiliate membership, which also gives you access to a wealth of resources and networking opportunities. Find out more and to apply.

CPD hours

The full programme carries 200 CPD hours. The practitioner stage carries 80 CPD hours.