Financial sustainability

Strategic budget planning in schools is more important than ever. School funding is being squeezed due to several factors varying from increasing costs, delivering a more challenging curriculum, changing demographics and national funding changes.

Schools resource management

The DFE have recently published their new strategy School Resource Management: Building a stronger system which sets out their approach and offer for all schools and academy trusts to support financial effectiveness.

Schools resource management aims to help schools and trusts secure the best value from their expenditure, so it can be re-invested back into improving outcomes for pupils. There are 7 key areas.

7 key areas of schools resource management

Using your data to make decisions

It is essential to use data to make an informed decision. Benchmarking is an especially useful tool in measuring performance. There are a few available resources.

Support in managing your workforce

Changes in the availability of resources is going to be an issue in managing staffing in your organisation. It is important to look at sources that will help reduce the cost of staffing as this will have the biggest impact in reducing expenditure.

Getting the best value from your non staff expenditure

While the cost of staffing is the most significant it is essential to ensure value for money when commissioning other non-staff services, like stationary, utilities, and other sundries.

Maximising the impact of your school business professional

Continuing professional development and training for school business professionals is important and there are a variety of qualifications for school business professionals, depending on experience and preferred method of study.

School business professionals (SBP) guidance

Getting the most out of digital technology

ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is a constantly shifting area with new developments happening all the time. There are several efficiencies that can be achieved through the automation of processes. The below is a link to free peer-to-peer support on effective use of technology in education

EdTech demonstrator programme

Managing your school estate

To help schools and responsible bodies manage their land and buildings by taking a strategic approach to estate management can have a positive impact on the organisation across several areas like reducing running costs, getting better deals & spreading the costs, making better investment decisions, and prioritising maintenance. Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) has self-assessment tools and compliance trackers to help.

Good estate management for schools guidance

Accessing hands on support

There is great deal of support and schools should not be afraid to look across the market to find the right support. The School Bursarial Support Service is a suitable place to start. They have a wealth of experience and expertise and can provide guidance on a full range of challenges. In addition, the deployment of a schools resource management advisor has been found to be incredibly beneficial to school is assessing financial performance. Free deployments (funded by the DfE) are available to all schools and academy trusts. Maintained schools interested in arranging a deployment should contact Kim Price in the first instance.

Budget monitoring

It is particularly important that financial information is presented clearly and concisely so that is easily interpreted and understood. This will ensure that financial performance is monitored accurately, and any matters can easily be acknowledged and actioned.

Below are some of the examples of how schools and governing board’s financial information could be presented. There are no pre-prescribed formats and schools, and governing boards agree their own.

These are in the format school bursarial service use when supporting schools the local authority consider these good practice:

Example one-page summary for monitoring
It is good practice to have a bit of narrative/summary of the budget monitoring, which should be reviewed first.

Example budget monitoring summary
Summary level info and cross reference the figures in the one-page summary, this is to understand where they have come from, in looking at the summary, areas can be identified to ask the school about and then look at these in more depth in the budget monitoring detail sheet.

Example budget monitoring detail
This is useful to review particularly variance to budget, variance to the previous forecast, % of budget used.

Budget strategy examples

Example budget strategy document
This level of detail is only needed if there is a significant issue with the school’s finances, however it can be useful to produce this once a year with all the key info including benchmarking etc. This is so all the information is in one place and can then be reviewed and updated if needed, also have a summary if the financial position in the school development plan (SDP)

Example five-year forecast
Example of five-year summary forecast. Sitting behind this there would be a detail sheet detailing each line of spend, like three above.

Resources and tools

There are numerous resources and tools to draw upon.

For more information or finance support school bursarial service is a buy back service and if your school buys in, is interested in buying in, or would like to use the tools the team produce, please see the service link below.

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Last updated: 01 Aug 2023