Financial efficiency can be hugely challenging for MATs. Looking after multiple schools, and making sure each school has the funding they require so that no one school is overlooked, means that those in charge of the school’s finances can often find themselves overwhelmed and struggling to manage the budget efficiently
When budgets are tight it is imperative that schools are being as efficient as possible with the use of their resources. To help with this, the Department for Education publishes guidance and online tools https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/schools-financial-health-and-efficiency which aim to help schools improve their financial health and efficiency.
The DfE has a specific guide for governors https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/schools-financial-health-and-efficiency who have a key role in ensuring that trusts manage their finances efficiently. The guide goes through the top ten planning checks for governors, which should be used early in the budget planning cycle to ensure that, from the start, resources are being used efficiently.
They have also launched an improved schools’ financial benchmarking service https://schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk. This service allows MATs to compare their spending levels and performance data with schools which share similar factors – such as pupil numbers, percentage of children with SEND, percentage of children who have FSM and the percentage of pupils with English as a second language.
This guide will help SBLs consider how to use available resources to maximise their impact in improving their schools. Benchmarking helps you to consider how to use your resources to support high-quality teaching and the best education outcomes for your pupils and it also helps you to connect with other schools or trusts to discuss challenges and successes. This can help you consider whether your resource allocations are working for you, and how you can improve outcomes by doing things differently.
However, benchmarking is only a guide. Some schools or trusts may find themselves at the lower or upper extremes of the data. You should consider other things you know about your school when assessing the data.
Schools’ buying strategy
The DfE has also published a strategy which aims to help schools save over £1bn a year on non-staff spend. As part of this strategy the DfE has struck national commercial deals to help with the securing value for money in the procurement process. The strategy includes energy deals, saving schools up to 10%, and multi-functional device deals, saving schools over 40%.
Workforce planning guidance
The DfE has published further guidance to support schools, including a schools’ workforce planning guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-workforce-planning. This provides a long-term plan to help to secure regular school improvement, financial planning and curriculum. It aims to help ensure that schools are always investing the right amount in staff and professional development in order to help deliver consistently good pupil outcomes.
Using all of these different types of guidance provided by the DfE should help those who work in MATs achieve more efficient school finance management, and ensure that resources are maximised across all of the schools in the trust.