Integrated Curriculum and Financial Planning (ICFP) – How strong are your finance strategies?

Published on 10 September 2018

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With the increasing financial pressures placed on academies the financial strains are never far from the forefront of our minds, so now that one school year has ended and another is beginning academies should all take a second to ask themselves some key questions.

  • Where are we at?
  • What have we learnt?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How do we get there?

While the “what” and “where” will be completely personal to each academy, part of the “how” is developing a strong financial strategy that will give academy trusts the freedom to build viable and sustainable educational platforms for our children to learn.

Too often we read of academy failings because finances were put ahead of pupil education when in actual fact the careful construction of curriculum planning and key focus of your pupil’s needs should be the driving force of you academy’s financial strategy which in turn will lead your budgets.

The Department for Education have put increased emphasis on the need for academies to integrate their curriculum and financial planning providing guidance through publications such as School resource management: checklist and top 10 planning checks for governors.

As a result, Kreston Reeves have had the privilege of working with a number of clients to evaluate the financial efficiency and future sustainability of their Trust and the individual academies within them. This has often been part of the external validation they require as part of their MAT Development and Improvement Fund (MDIF) grant.

For individual academies this has ultimately meant a stronger focus on the structuring, planning and timetabling of the workforce in a way that efficiently covers the curriculum, thus giving teachers the required amount of teaching and planning time but also reducing any idle time. This is successfully achieved through the addition of Key Performance Indicators, alongside the more stringent use of benchmarking against academies of a similar size, such as:

  • Teacher contact ratio
  • Curriculum headroom
  • Cost per lesson

We have also introduced benchmarking against other similar academies from around the UK from the data found within the Kreston Academies Benchmark Report.

In one case study, a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) of five schools asked all assistant heads to add 1-2 teaching days to their schedules. They then paired these with NVQ teachers and this enabled the trust to save themselves the cost of a full-time teacher whilst giving the unqualified teachers the resource of working with the best/most experienced staff in the school. A win-win situation.

For MATs the above approach is taken one step further by asking schools to develop a business model and improvement plan that is prioritised, timetabled and directly linked to the future financial strategies. So when a MAT in a deficit position asks for growth funding they are systematically documenting how the Trust will continue to operate after the funds have run out, whether that be through economies of scale or new initiatives to increase self-generated income.

Ultimately the message for all academies is to have clear and effective resource management as this is key to achieving a sustainable future. Academies need to stop seeing finance as an added extra or burden to the running of the school. They should look to encourage senior leadership teams in taking an active role working with the finance team in developing financial strategies, planning budgets and allocating resources.

The ICFP evaluation reports we have produced for our clients have provided them with extremely valuable information on areas they need to address in order to save money. If you are looking for a provider who can add real value to the process whilst offering genuine sector expertise then do please get in touch. We are always happy to have an initial complimentary discussion on your needs.

Make sure you download your complimentary copy of Kreston’s Academies Benchmark Report 2019 here: http://eepurl.com/ge8wvr

This year the report includes over 350 Trusts representing nearly 1000 schools and is based on those Academies that prepared financial statements for the period ended 31 August 2018 and which were audited by member firms of Kreston UK.

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