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ACCA student success with Zoe Clark

We caught up with Zoe Clark, a newly qualified accountant at Alder, Demain & Akers, who recently achieved a Bronze prize in her Strategic Level ACCA exams, having studied at Reed Business School.

Early steps

Zoe didn’t have the most conventional of beginnings to her accountancy career, initially training as a vet for five years at the Royal Veterinary College London. After practicing as a vet for a few years, she felt the need for a career change, and joined an organisation that managed student accommodation, in their finance department.

Deciding to properly take the plunge in her new profession, Zoe self-studied for her AAT qualification while working full-time. In her job she’d manage the regular financial processes, using what she’d learned from her course, but it wasn’t long before Zoe wanted to take the next step up.

“I’d become very good at running all the monthly processes and standard elements of the job, but there wasn’t much room for progression, so I looked for a new opportunity where I could learn and grow more.”

Zoe came across local accountancy practice Alder, Demain & Akers in 2016 , where she secured a job, and continued with the next phase of her studies. Opting to begin her ACCA course with Reed Business School rather than continuing her laborious and comparatively slow self-study AAT qualification, Zoe’s journey to professional accountancy qualification began its next chapter.

Time to succeed

Zoe flourished at Reed Business school, and admits that she really enjoyed her spells with us for each module she undertook.

“The level of study is really well-paced and the tutors were all excellent. I really liked the building, which is completely different to all the other colleges I know of, and the small class sizes mean you get to know people and develop a network to share the experience together.”

Rather than completing one module at a time, Zoe generally opted to take four exams a year: two each in June and December. She would normally start studying in March for the June exams and then again in September for the December exams, giving herself a cycle of three months of very intensive study, followed by a three-month break.

“I’d be at the school for perhaps 15-20 days every six months, which I found to be a good balance, even though the run-up to exams would be quite stressful!”

Personal study strategy

As with all of our successful students, Zoe invested in a lot of self-study, but admits she wasn’t always the most motivated:

“I’d do up to an hour of study each evening and quite a bit at weekends, but I would always reward myself with breaks for small achievements in order to keep me going!”

Zoe appreciated the structure of the revision courses at Reed Business School, managing her time between each session to ensure she had prepared the relevant topics and so make best use of each session with the tutors.

“Reading through your own notes is good, but it’s more beneficial to apply your knowledge in question-based scenarios, so I’d do as many as I could. The feedback from the tutors on these was invaluable.”

However, when it came to her own exam preparation and revision, Zoe’s strategy was to batten down the hatches and go all out for 3-4 weeks in advance of each exam to retain as much information as possible.

“I know it’s not a technique that works for everyone, but for me, I found it the best way to make sure I could be prepared for the exam. Thankfully I could rely on my other half to look after the domestic chores at those times!”

Adapting to online learning

The last few months of Zoe’s studying was through our online service, which she admits, while not the same, was still a really valuable and useful platform.

“Of course I was sad not to be able to go to the school, I was a bit apprehensive about online learning at first, but I found all the staff incredibly helpful, and the tutors were always available to provide help when needed.”

Excelling in exams

Zoe’s ACCA Bronze Award is based on her average performance in her final four strategic-level exams, which put her among the very best performers in each sitting. And perhaps what’s most surprising is that it was these papers she found most challenging.

“They are much more about time management and exam technique, with a lot more writing involved than all the other papers. I preferred the more structured papers with definite answers where you could tell straight away whether you had an answer that was correct or not.”

Zoe found SBL case-study paper the most gruelling, as it was all written, with less clarity about the marks you were going to get. But she highlights the help of her tutor and being able to take a mock exam as vital components of her success.

“Exam practice is key. The tutors will tell you what’s more important and what’s less important when it comes to getting marks – especially how to write answers in the right way – but you have to practice it yourself. Our tutor gave lots of feedback, and really quickly after our mock, which was fantastic, but mostly they were reassuring, which is what you need to stay calm and level-headed going into the exam.”

Zoe’s advice for others

“I’d definitely say: take it at your own pace.”

As your professional study is going to take up to three, four or even five years of your life, you have to be able to manage your work, life and study balance, and only you know what that looks like for yourself.

Zoe found that taking breaks between papers was important for her to keep that sense of balance, but others may prefer a more consistent path.

The future

Now Zoe has qualified, she’s enjoying a very well-earned break from studying, and isn’t looking too far into the future.

“I don’t have a specific goal yet. I’m happy where I am, and enjoying taking on a bit more responsibility at my firm with some more complex work.”

Zoe values the variety of work she comes across in her practice, which was also beneficial for her studying, but won’t be rushing to specialise in any one area just yet.

Zoe, congratulations on your well-deserved exam success, and keep in touch!

Are you looking to progress your ACCA qualification? Or are you thinking of starting your own ACCA journey? If so look through our brochure, attend our next Open Afternoon or give us a call! ACCA – Reed Business School

Sustainability and accountancy – how you can help shape a greener, fairer future

Accountants might not be the most obvious choice of people to lead a green revolution, but we all have a role to play, and you might have more influence than you think.

Sustainable skills

Finance professionals have skills in numeracy, measuring and analysing performance, assessment of risk and presenting business case propositions to add economic value. These give you the capabilities and opportunities to deliver the changes in corporate and personal behaviours, if you use your influence well.

Accountants generally hold positions of trust and power, and should be making more of that by demonstrating that financial and environmental returns are not mutually exclusive. You should also be prepared to have tough conversations about what ‘value’ means and work with colleagues from other disciplines to develop metrics that work across everything, while not compromising on financial reporting. Accountants need to become system thinkers and see the whole big picture by analysing non-financial information.

The green business case

Incentives could encourage senior management to pursue non-financial goals as well as financial goals, reflecting the long-term consequences of an organisation’s actions. Employees may need encouragement to promote their own ideas and aspirations for promoting sustainability, but these could be written into employees’ annual objectives, and used to cross collaborate across business areas.

Supply chain management is also key: can you identify multiple value streams within your organisation and supply chain, eg, less packaging saves resources, reduces transport and minimises your customer’s waste?

Regardless of which industry/sector or place we are operating in, each and every one of us has a responsibility for carbon reduction and saving our planet. This can be done in various ways:

  • Transitioning the use of existing fossil fuels infrastructure / re-purposing the built environment
  • Circular economy (eg, re-use of oil in plastic to make road surfaces)
  • Green electricity

Personal vs corporate values

There’s a school of thought that says how we behave in our corporate lives should align with our personal behaviours, those behaviours we hope our friends, our family, and children recognise in each of us. This notion seems to be becoming more prevalent as professionals tend to seek out organisations with similar belief systems to their own to work in, rather than taking a job anywhere.

As chartered accountants we have access and influence in organisations greater than almost every other role. We can have legitimate, detailed conversations about what all areas of our organisation are doing and we can challenge.

Influence doesn’t only need to be in the areas of corporate policy. We should also consider how we seek to track performance which in turn links to how people across the organisation are incentivised. Financial management digs deeply into the underlying performance of our organisations; the same skills and disciplines can be used to track delivery against other critical corporate objectives. Given the frequently demonstrated link between shareholder value and delivery of both financial performance and demonstrable sustainability metrics, it is easy to rationalise why short term and longer-term incentive schemes should also be aligned to the delivery of stretch targets based upon the sustainable development goals.

The insight that we can offer to management across the organisation influences important decisions. We should not, therefore, sit passively responding to the activity of our colleagues when our personal values have been compromised. We should engage, have those tough discussions, and seek to ensure that our organisations are doing the right things for the longer term by aligning with the sustainable development goals.

What can accountants do?

In short, you can be the catalyst for change in your organisation. Use your insight, analysis and critical thinking to paint a richer picture of your organisation, and make alternative options viable with meaningful information beyond profit. SMEs in particular may consider that sustainability is not relevant to the future of their business and maybe be a tougher audience, but easier to develop an action plan for.

There is a strong and consistent demand for us to use our measurement skills to demonstrate nonfinancial value, and not only through numerical data but qualitative attributes that non-financial information captures. Yet we must have humility, that the collective intelligence of humanity does not fully understand the complex value chains within the biosphere. We need to be prudent that measuring biodiversity in financial or other metrics will be an incomplete record of its value; and we cannot simply offset a biodiversity loss (liability) by creating an unconnected asset elsewhere.

The drivers for change.

The essence of what we can do to deliver change is based on an understanding of the drivers for corporate and personal behaviours. From a business perspective these are to create value. Consider:

  • Will the business model need to change?
  • Will operating practices need to change?
  • Will relationships across supply chains, communities and employees, contractors need to be more co-operative and equitable?
  • What new risks will arise?
  • Is sufficient finance available to fund the changes, internally and from external sources?

How do we each want to see the world for the next generations? Your role is to be business-smart and regulation aware. However, it can be much more. We can, and should be meaningful influencers, with government bodies and other institutions, to shape the policies and strategies to set the right framework for actions for change. So, what are you waiting for?

Adapting to change: How to better handle change at work

Today’s world of work is evolving rapidly, with new technology and disruptions continuously shifting job responsibilities, processes and expectations. No wonder employers now look for people who, regardless of their role, continuously develop and nurture their ability to be able to deal with workplace changes positively.

But adjusting to change is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. In fact, not everyone accepts change in a positive way. We are creatures of habit and so many of us find that change can trigger a range of emotional reactions, from mild discomfort or nerves through to intense panic or fear.

If you struggle when facing workplace change, the good news is that shifting your mindset and adapting in a constructive way is a skill that, like any other, can be learnt.

What is adaptability to change?

Firstly though, what does it mean to be adaptable to change? In short, this refers to the ability to quickly and successfully embrace change and adopt effectively in response. It’s about handling change in the workplace in a way that leads to continued success for your organisation and your career, rather than fearing and resisting it.

Crucially, the ability to adapt well to change is important for your long-term career success since it is now a skillset that employers look for as a core capability in their workforce.

If you find that the prospect of change causes you some fear and anxiety, it’s therefore important to learn how to embrace change – and in so doing, develop an important, transferable skillset. Here are ten top tips on how to improve your adaptability skills and embrace change at work:

  1. Challenge your interpretation of the facts

During any time of change, you will likely face unfamiliar challenges which may make you feel apprehensive or anxious. Instead of dwelling on these, challenge your interpretation of events by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is your interpretation of the change you are facing rational, objective and based purely on the facts?
  • Can you challenge your interpretation with an opposing argument?
  • If so, what’s the alternative perspective of this situation?

The way you interpret facts and information relating to the change you are facing, and the meaning you give them, is what will determine your approach to change, the course you take and ultimately how successful you will be in adopting the change. By objectively examining a challenging situation and doing your best to remove your negative and potentially unfounded assumptions, you’ll have a more positive emotional reaction and, subsequently, will be able to determine the practical steps you need to take to arrive at a productive outcome.

  1. Ask questions

When receiving news of an impending change, your immediate reaction will most likely be emotional and you may experience feelings of shock and worry. This is completely normal. Much of the anxiety you feel will be rooted in the unknown, and the “what if’s”, and the only way to alleviate the ambiguity is to get the information you need. Don’t wait for people to provide it to you, ask! Your manager may not know that you want or need the information. The sooner you have all the facts, the sooner you will be able to process them and interpret what they mean for you.

  1. Recognise and rationalise the voice of caution

When confronted with a situation that’s unfamiliar, there’s often a voice of caution at the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow. During times of change, this area of the brain likes to take charge and urges us to resist and be cautious. By recognising that this is what is happening and reminding ourselves that all will be okay, we can stay open-minded and prepare to take on the change in careful, measured steps.

  1. Reframe change as an opportunity

Fear about change often comes from negative thoughts about what the future could hold. When you become fearful in this way, consciously look to turn your negative feelings into something positive.

The key to reframing your response to change as a positive one comes from understanding exactly where your worries are coming from, then challenging this.

Begin by exploring what it is about the change that you see as negative or that is causing you worry. For example, are you worried about a lack of support or an increased workload?

Now consider whether your interpretation of these aspects could be reframed in a positive light. For example, additional responsibilities and the opportunity to manage your workload more independently could help to advance your career.

The following questions may help:

  • Forget the way the change was worded when it was communicated to you. Instead, think about how you would word this challenge or change if you were to explain it to others. This may help you understand what it is about the change that’s troubling you.
  • What are the real implications and opportunities for you?
  • How will the change affect your life in a practical sense? For example, will you have to work longer hours or tackle some difficult decisions without as much guidance from your manager? Will you take on additional responsibilities that will help your career progress longer term? Will it give you the opportunity to build new skills?
  • In the past, when you handled change really well, what did you do and what actions, in particular, really worked?
  • The aim here is to try to keep things in perspective and aligned with what really matters to you and your career.
  1. Break down the information

Take some time to work out exactly what you will have to do differently day-to-day as a result of this change. Breaking down the big picture into smaller portions that you can then control makes change feel more manageable. Transitioning to a new way of working, for example, may seem daunting and unfamiliar, especially in a tight timeframe, but segmenting it into individual, practical steps like the following will make it seem less intimidating:

  • Consider the key tasks that you normally complete day-to-day and identify which will change and which will stay the same;
  • Highlight any new responsibilities you will have, what they entail and when key actions will be required;
  • Find out what the new priorities will be, what the expectations will be for you individually going forward and how this will be monitored;
  • Find out how you will need to work with your team going forward, such as more regular meetings or collaboration;
  • Think about how you will need to use systems differently or what new software you will need to become familiar with;
  • Identify any areas where you feel you may need more knowledge or skills to carry out your role successfully;
  • Make sure you are checking in regularly with your colleagues and manager to run through any decisions or processes you are unsure of.
  1. Dip your toe in the water

When working towards embracing change, the first step is always the hardest. Therefore, it’s crucial that you dip your toe in the water as soon as possible. Identify a simple task to start with before working your way up to more complex activities you may need to tackle as a result of this change. Achieving quick wins should help subdue some of the anxiety you are experiencing.

  1. Be patient with yourself, persevere and ask for help if needed

It takes time and perseverance to adapt to change and you may not see differences overnight. Remember also that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness, so make sure you are talking to people who can help keep you on track. If you are struggling to adapt to a particular change you are facing, then ask to be directed to any relevant employee assistance programmes or training resources that could help you. Talk to your manager about signing up to Hays online learning – Hays Thrive, which provides a full library of training courses that could help.

  1. Broaden your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is the set of behaviours and actions that together create the drumbeat of your day-to-day life, reducing risk and stress and providing us with a sense of security. It is this comfort zone that is often threatened by change, so the challenge is to identify how to quickly establish a new routine, and thus a new drumbeat so that you can rebuild self-confidence and a sense of security.

Think about how to map out your day or week now as a result of the change. What are the key regular activities you will need to do? How long will they take? When will you do them?

  1. Celebrate daily wins

With time, what might once have seemed a significant change to a way of doing things will start to gradually integrate into your day-to-day and feel much more natural. This is an ongoing process, so if you encounter the odd setback, continue steadily nonetheless. Take each step one at a time, set yourself daily goals and then reflect on what went well.

During times of change, it is very easy to focus on what you couldn’t do or what went wrong, rather than what went well. Focusing on your wins every day, no matter how small, will help you to see that you are moving forward and working on embracing change.

  1. Remember it’s a lifelong skill

Finally, it is important to remember that change can occur at any time and you will likely experience many periods of change throughout your working life. Embracing change successfully is therefore an important skill that will serve you well throughout the whole of your personal and professional life.

So, in summary, knowing how to adapt to change at work is important for your career long-term. When facing change, don’t just sit there and let it happen to you. Remember, you may not always get to choose when change impacts you, but you can always choose how you respond!

A new look for our new era of accountancy training

At Reed Business School we never stop working – to make sure we give our students the best learning experience possible. The last year or so has seen us adapt quickly and develop ourselves to deliver online and blended tuition in keeping with the high standards we’ve been running for over 45 years. It’s been a challenge, but our continuously high exam results show we’ve been doing well so far.

We’ve successfully been utilising Teams and ProSuite to meet the demands of remote training and business operations, and we’ve also been working behind the scenes to deliver a clear and consistent brand and vision to support our new way of working. We don’t want to rest on our laurels and assume the work is now done!

So, over the coming weeks you’ll be seeing some changes – from the format and look of our documents, to the style and structure of our website, and even social media channels. We’re continuing to upgrade in all areas of the business to provide the best possible learning platform for you, and ensure we remain competitive.

Throughout all this work we’ve kept in mind our core values: being fair, open, and honest; taking ownership; and working together. It’s been a real team effort over the last 18 months, and now we’re proud to be able to introduce the new brand identity which encompasses everything we’ve worked on, and will continue to represent in the future. We hope you continue to join us on this journey.

Watch this space for more, and do let us know your thoughts!

Do the right thing

Business, like life, is full of ethical dilemmas. At a time when there seems to be a lot of focus on doing the right thing, how do you as a human balance the sometimes conflicting requirements of doing your job with your own values?

The world has no single, universally-accepted set of rules or principles for ethical behaviour. But while philosophers can philosophise, accountants have no such luxury. The profession has to debate ethics, reach conclusions and take actions in the knowledge that they will be scrutinised, analysed, discussed, questioned and sometimes even tried in a court of public opinion – where appearances matter more than substance.

We love teaching all aspects of financial training here at Reed Business School, but it’s the ethics classes that are often the most interesting.

In discussions about ethics, rules and laws are common reference points, yet many people in the profession believe ethics are about trying to do the right thing even when nobody is looking, especially when there isn’t a specific rule or law to help.

More laws = more ethical behaviour?

At the regional firm George Hay, legislation such as the Bribery Act and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Regulations have been built into the relevant guidelines, training and procedures, but the impact on ethics seems to have been limited.

“Before, if we suspected a client of some sort of wrongdoing, the dilemma was, ‘Does this go beyond our ethical guidelines, and do we want to disengage?’” says Toni Hunter, partner and George Hay’s AML reporting officer. “We always erred on the side of caution. Now we are duty bound to blow the whistle. If a client is being deliberately evasive, or there is simply any doubt, staff members know they must report this to me. Then I decide if this should be logged with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and tell the employee involved to keep their eyes and ears open, without alerting the client to the fact that they are under suspicion.”

Accountants in industry also believe that they can be relied on to behave ethically without more rules and regulations. “I look back at my ACA training and it clearly showed the ethical approach required,” says Jonathan Coiley, finance director at Acorn Engineering Group, who qualified before ICAEW introduced the Structured Training in Ethics programme. “When an ethical issue lands on your doorstep there is adequate guidance open to you,” he says. As well as the Code of Ethics, ICAEW provides helplines and online support, though Coiley adds, “My ethical approach as an FD fundamentally rests on my nature to be honest, fair and correct in everything I do.”

Right from wrong

Rohan Hewavisenti, director of finance and business at the British Red Cross, is certain that, regardless of rules and regulations, there is a basic level at which people know what is wrong and what is right – even if they don’t always do the latter. “I recall being very disillusioned many years ago when some Lloyds names lost a lot of money and the government stepped in to give them a helping hand. This has since repeated itself with the banks,” says Hewavisenti. So, soon after qualifying as an ACA, he decided to “do something more rewarding” with his career, and moved into the third sector.

There are many different ways of reconciling your personal moral code with that of your chosen profession. But what society considers immoral or unethical changes. And it may sometimes be appropriate to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater one. Practices of questionable morality in one place, or culture, or religion, are judged acceptable or even desirable in others. For example, in China, it can be considered the done thing to make business decisions based on what’s best for your family. In the UK, that may be considered nepotism. There are grey areas – both inside and outside the profession.

This is especially true for tax avoidance and tax evasion. On the one hand, accountants can be seen as walking a very fine line of acceptability, but microeconomic behaviour can have macroeconomic consequences, as Prem Sikka, professor of accounting, points out. “There are lots of examples of things that were considered avoidance until they were challenged and then they became evasion,” he says, “but there is a limit to how many resources the state can spend addressing this.”

So where does this leave the profession? Trying to do the right thing and be seen doing the right thing in a world that is fraught with the dangers of moral relativism and pragmatism. It’s an area of accountancy that’s constantly evolving, and therefore always worth revisiting. So, if you’re able to get down the pub with some colleagues this summer, have a good old chinwag about ethics and see what solutions you can come up with!

A new dawn and an Accountancy Apprenticeship?

As freedom looms, and we start to make more choices about our futures, many of us are considering a change of lifestyle or career. For those looking to retrain while still being able to work towards a well-paid job, an accountancy internship might be the answer…

How apprenticeships work

On an apprenticeship, you’re employed to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification (ACCA, CIMA or ICAEW) – usually for one day a week either at a college or training centre like Reed Business School. By the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll have gained the skills and knowledge needed to either succeed in your chosen career or progress onto the next apprenticeship level.

You’ll also be constantly developing your transferable skills, such as business communication, teamwork and problem solving, as well as knowledge of IT programmes.

Length of accountancy apprenticeships

The length of your apprenticeship will depend on a number of factors, such as the level of the apprenticeship, employer requirements and your individual ability.

  • advanced apprenticeships(equivalent to Level 4) are usually studied over two years
  • higher and degree apprenticeships(equivalent to Level 7) take three-to-six years to complete.

Both will see you achieve a formal qualification from your chosen professional body, but it’s worth checking directly with your chosen employer before applying to check how long your course will last, as some won’t follow this structure.

Pay rates and working hours

For those aged 21 and over, you are entitled to minimum wage of at least £8.20 per hour while on your apprenticeship, though some employers will pay more. For more information on pay rates, see GOV.UK – Become an apprentice.

You’ll also be entitled to sick pay, any additional benefits your employer offers to its other employees, such as healthcare plans and childcare vouchers, and at least 20 days of paid holiday per year.

Working hours vary depending on your employer, but you won’t be able to work more than 40 hours per week or any fewer than 30. Typically, you’ll work between 35 and 37.5 hours per week. Most accountancy apprentices can expect to work something like 9am-5.30pm for four days a week, while you’re studying the other one day.

Age limit

One of the key selling points of accountancy apprenticeships is that there’s no upper age limit to begin. As long as you’re over 16 and have the right credentials, you’ll be eligible to apply for your chosen apprenticeship. So if you fancy a career change in your 30s, 40s or 50s, an apprenticeship could be for you!

If you start your apprenticeship after you turn 19, you may be entitled to additional government funding. Find out more about what’s on offer at Student Finance England – Advanced Learner Loan.

Entry requirements

As each type of apprenticeship offers a different-levelled qualification their entry requirements will vary. Generally speaking, they are as follows:

  • For an advanced apprenticeship, you’re likely to be asked for prior work experience and at least three GCSEs or equivalent – such as an intermediate apprenticeship qualification.
  • As higher apprenticeshipsare the equivalent of a foundation degree, HNC or first year of a Bachelors, you’ll usually need at least five good GCSEs, as well as some Level 3 qualifications in relevant subjects, to apply. Your Level 3 qualifications could be AS-levels, a BTEC National or a Level 3 NVQ.
  • Degree apprenticeshipswill have the tightest entry requirements. These may include three A-levels in a specified grade range or a higher apprenticeship qualification, on top of at least five 9-4 GCSE grades. It’s also likely you’ll be required to have prior work experience.

You can apply for apprenticeships at any time of year – whether you’re successful depends on if an employer has a vacancy. You’ll be able to check the specific entry requirements of your chosen apprenticeship once the position opens.

Our top tips

Apprenticeships are not as easy as they might seem. Not only are you studying, but you’re also working 80% of a full-time role. You will need to study at the evenings and weekends. However, it does mean you can study without incurring student debt, earn a salary and have the advantage of several years’ work experience that your peers graduating from a traditional degree won’t have.

Look carefully into the study method and make sure you choose a course that’s right for you. Some will offer the opportunity for weekly face to face classes whereas others will be almost entirely online, and a range in between. At Reed Business School we offer a blended learning approach that prioritises our small class in-person teaching – a formula which sees our students achieve results well above the national average.

Be careful about where you do your apprenticeship. Try to find testimonials or speak to other apprentices at the organisation. The quality of employer support can vary hugely.

Want to find out more? Get in touch to see whether an accountancy apprenticeship with Reed Business School might be right for you.

How technology can enhance the learning process

Like many organisations over the last year, we’ve had to embrace ways to teach remotely and digitally, and while we are back teaching face-to-face in a classroom, there are some elements of technology that might be here to stay. So today we’re running through how technology can enhance the learning process, and what we’ve learned over the last year.

Driving improvement

Consistently improving is a huge priority for us, to ensure we provide the best possible training we can for all of our students. We’ve adopted various approaches to maintain our high level of teaching, and our results over the last year go to show how successful we’ve been.

Our regular model is based on small in-person classes, and adopting technology enables us to keep that small-group discursive atmosphere, while our students can access online resources to get assistance on demand – beyond the physical reach of their teacher.

Perhaps both a downside and upside of using technology is that education now doesn’t stop when the physical class finishes. Students can access teachers, resources, and assignments via the web whenever and wherever they have an internet connection.

Efficient communication

Opening up new work and study channels online facilitates new ways of communication, allowing learners to communicate in a way that best suits them, and challenging others to build up their skills in online channels. Documents can be shared, with comments, discussions and all manner of break-out groups formed for specific topics to streamline communication.

Our approach has adapted the traditional classroom into a network where teachers can post assignments progressively, and students can ask questions more easily–of teachers and of their peers–and reference a structured record of past discussions and classes. Those that might not feel confident in putting their hand up in class can still ask the questions they need to without fear of embarrassment, and sources can be shared easily.

Faster referencing

The days of flipping through heaps of books to locate a specific reference or theory are all but behind us, as resources, links and guides with specific page, section and line markers can be shared easily online.

Since it is now much simpler to access a wider array of sources quickly, students can consolidate their learning and discover new material to complete their assignments or support their studies more efficiently.

From a practical perspective, ebooks also save students money and the burden of hauling around piles of books to different classes. Digital books can be stored on a tablet or e-reader they can bring everywhere, making digital course material and books much more convenient.

Effective assessments and data measurement

Technology not only allows teachers to prepare practice exercises in a productive manner, it also allows them to better measure the advancement of their students, and quickly make relevant changes or follow-up actions as they see the relevant data.

We’ve embedded smart data across the school not only for teachers, but for all support staff so communication is efficient, and students never have to wait long for answers from any of our staff.

Self-paced learning

Our small classes mean that tutors can tailor the speed of their teaching towards each group. However, self-guided learning and revision is another enormous advantage that students appreciate with the help of technology. Sometimes the theories and processes we discuss are very complicated, and students who might need more time can review these areas when they want to easily.

With technology being a core pillar of their learning, students can keep pace with their peers by using guided exercises and reading to take on new concepts at their own pace, and to practice again later, at home.

Platform familiarisation

Working on new online platforms is something we all have to get used to in the professional world. Especially when we change job or organisation. Many workplaces use Teams and many don’t – either way, it’s a useful platform to learn and become familiar with.

Becoming a digital native and adapting to new ways of working is what is expected in the 21st Century, so we believe in supporting that as much as we can, in combination with face-to-face contact where possible.

Maintain your wellbeing through changing times

The term ‘wellbeing’ is personal and subjective, but also universally relevant, and perhaps never more important as we tentatively adapt from one way of living and working to another.

It encompasses many aspects of our lives that we determine ourselves: through our own capabilities as individuals, how we feel about ourselves the quality of the relationships that we have with other people, and our sense of purpose.

These psychological needs are an important part of what makes us human, along with our ability to feel positive and negative emotions. It matters how often, and for how long, we experience positive emotions – such as pleasure and a sense of purpose – or potentially negative emotions, like anxiety.

Wherever you are and whatever your cultural background or personal circumstances, people intuitively understand the value of happiness and wellbeing. But we don’t all know how best to manage it within ourselves. So today we’re looking at how you can do that, at home and at work.

Wellbeing at work

In the UK nearly 1 in 7 people experience mental health issues in the workplace. And while that’s a scary figure, it isn’t exactly surprising. Most people spend the majority of their waking lives at work, encountering stress, long hours, difficult colleagues and customers, financial worries, and a poor work-life balance – which can all take a physical and mental toll. So how can you manage this as big changes are going on around you?

1. Practice all-round self-care

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to maintaining wellbeing, so staying healthy and positive to start with can prevent deeper issues arising later. Remember the basics:

Eat well, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, maintain a good social life, and minimise use of drugs and alcohol.

That might sound simplistic, but when life gets too much, it can be easy to stop doing any number of these self-care essentials. Building them into a daily routine will help prevent and alleviate wellbeing-related issues.

2. Take breaks

We can all sometimes feel like there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. Often, it is a case of constantly playing catch up to stay on top of the situation.

Therefore, taking breaks can seem like an impossible luxury, but to avoid burnout, what it takes is a good dose of self-discipline! Even the shortest break can make a world of difference.

Just because you might be back in your workplace after a long time, remember to get away from the computer and into the fresh air. Put the phone down and do something personally gratifying such as reading a book, having a healthy snack, sitting in the sunshine, and generally taking a breather. Doing these things will be sure to improve your overall health and wellbeing in the workplace.

3. Maintain your work/life balance

It can feel difficult to switch off that computer and pack your bag bang on the dot, but it helps when you’re nearing the end of the day to work out what you can realistically complete in time, and what will have to be rolled over or passed on. Practicing efficient time management works for you and your colleagues.

Then when you’re out of work, try organising fun things to do in the evenings and weekends too! Join a social club, sports team, yoga class, or take part in any other activity of interest. Doing these things will imbue life with a greater sense of meaning, purpose and happiness to take forward into the working week.

4. Communicate openly

The communication of wellbeing needs at work is of real importance, yet we know people can be wary of ‘complaining’ about perceived non-essential things.

Communication of any physical or mental issue is key to receiving help and improving the situation. All employers have a responsibility to support the wellbeing of their staff – but they need to know the situation first. A one-to-one session with a line manager can make a significant positive difference.

Equally, encouraging these conversations throughout the workplace helps create an atmosphere of openness and tolerance, especially during times when we all need a bit of a boost!

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness of the present-moment, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Countless people now practice it every day in support of all manner of physical and mental struggles. Among its many known benefits, mindfulness is scientifically proven to help relieve pain, reduce stress, and ease anxiety.

By focusing on a sensory experience, such as breathing, attention is brought firmly into the here-and-now. Worries and concerns get side-lined as people ground themselves in the reality of the moment.

Practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes each day, or in the midst of a tough situation, can make a big difference to overall wellbeing. There are many apps that can help – take a look on your next break or ask friends and colleagues about what they might recommend.

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy return to your respective work places.

Why accountants should take notice of diversity and inclusion

We saw an interesting discussion started by our friends at ICAEW about the importance of diversity within the profession, and why accountants at any stage in their career should pay attention to it.

Following on from their Member Spotlight event featuring Catherine Vaughan (partner and diversity champion at EY Ireland), ICAEW have prompted us all to think about the relevance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) for accountants, how and to whom we communicate such messages, and practical steps we can take to make the profession more inclusive.

Four reasons why D&I matters

Firstly, there is a moral obligation within the profession to be trustworthy. Accountants provide guidance, which often involves moral guidance on particular matters as well. By promoting diversity and inclusivity, the profession should be an example of how people should behave.

Secondly, there are tactical reasons for why accountants should care about D&I. Research shows that if an organisation excels at D&I, its workers are better at teamwork and collaboration, retention rates are higher, and they tend to have better market share and a greater chance of succeeding in new markets. These facts demonstrate how important D&I is to stability, growth and success of businesses.

Thirdly, accountants have to always have one eye on the future as well as managing what’s happening now. Building partnerships that will be profitable in the future means keeping one step ahead of the game, and keeping all options open. Key questions might be: where is my pool of future talent? Am I doing enough to help them develop?

Finally, D&I goes hand in hand with empathy – a word not often heard in accountancy! But clients often want to feel empathy between their accountants and and themselves. For people to believe that you will help them, there has to be a level of understanding. You have to be able to identify with them, and openness to new people and ideas is an important part of that.

Communicating D&I topics

Once you’re sorted on your position and policy in relation to diversity and inclusion, how and to whom should accountants communicate these for maximum effect? In general, your audience will be people of privilege: white, male (and some female), cis, middle-aged and well-educated, who are running the show and need to make changes. As accountants, you have an obligation to convince yourself and your colleagues and counterparts to do the right thing. It is not enough to assume this is ‘someone else’s responsibility’ – inclusion is everyone’s responsibility all of the time.

When communicating, it is important to understand what is being asked of people. It is more than a ‘tell’ instruction, ie ‘you need to be more diverse’, rather it is an ask for change management. Succession planning is a good example. When a white person is always being replaced by a white person, a man is always being replaced by a man, and a straight person is always being replaced by a straight person, there is no change. Questions should be asked about who is making decisions around these replacements and how those patterns can break, most importantly, to include people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives in the decision-making process.

Practical steps

It is helpful for organisations (and teams) to have D&I scorecards, which include things like percentage of women in leadership roles, gender and ethnicity pay gaps, training and development opportunities and requirements etc. Other measures involve self-identification from staff. Employee groups are also important, whether related to ethnicity, education diversity, gender or sexual identity, religion or other areas.

It’s also important to look beyond university degrees for recruitment. For example, many LGBT+ young people become excluded from the home and thus face higher barriers to completing formal education. They may be talented, but on paper they do not tick the expected boxes. You might be losing your highest potential future talent without even meeting them. Apprenticeships are now a very popular method of training new accountants from diverse backgrounds, so this is something to consider.

Essentially, it’s all about going back to the core values of our profession which relate to fairness, equity and trust. All accountants have a moral obligation to remember that. Diversity and inclusion give you the reason to find out why someone is different and then to invite them in to express that difference and contribute to your success.

Update on Guidance for Reed Business School

Reed Business School Guidance for attending Reed Business School

The Government has removed all remaining domestic restrictions in England.

We continue to support the Government guidance to include:

  • Getting vaccinated, including boosters upon eligibility
  • Letting fresh air in by opening windows and doors and, weather permitting, encouraging students to use the gardens during break times
  • While you’re no longer legally required to self-isolate, if you have COVID-19, we recommend you stay at home and away from others to avoid passing the virus
  • If you suspect you have COVID-19, please view the current Government guidance

If you are unwell, we encourage you do not attend Reed Business School and contact us to make alternative arrangements.

Please be reassured we will continue to keep up-to-date with the guidance and recommendations, and are ready to change our response should the Government make new announcements.


Updated: 22/4/22