Benchmarking allows you to check how your school’s finances compare to those of schools in similar circumstances – so you can see if you’re spending could be more efficient. The team from Strictly Education explore how you can use benchmarking to make more informed decisions
No other school or academy will be identical to yours. However, is there another school out there facing – or solving – similar challenges?
In this age of information exchange, school business managers (SBMs) need no longer work in isolation when making budgetary decisions. The Department for Education introduced financial benchmarking for schools in 2013 for SBMs to reference the financial details of any other school or academy and compare how they spend their budget, identifying common issues or opportunities.
As funding is squeezed and academies are made responsible for their own budgets, it is becoming increasingly useful for SBMs to borrow ideas and share good practices, so long as they use benchmarking correctly, making valid comparisons using analogous data.
Taking informed action
The government’s Schools Financial Benchmarking Service allows SBMs to search for institutions sharing selected characteristics such as size, spending trends or the percentage of students claiming free school meals.
The value of benchmarking lies in action taken, based on conclusions drawn from contrasting or converging data. Changes can be made, cost-saving strategies implemented and knowledge shared, with links forged between similar schools for mutual support.
It is important to remember, though, that benchmarking offers only a rough guide because of the many variables at play that may not be apparent in the data being used.
It is possible, for example, to draw false conclusions by not comparing like for like. Someone else’s data may be old or measured under different parameters, and it is difficult to verify its accuracy without direct contact with another school.
However, as more data becomes available, the more accurate will become the conclusions drawn from it. Joining a benchmarking group through your local authority or SBMs’ network, or seeking advice through the government’s website, are good starting points.