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Effective financial management in uncertain times

Liz Worthen shares why school business management professionals are joining together for December's Optimus Education Financial Management conference

Posted by Julian Owen | September 30, 2017 | Events

With uncertainty surrounding the national funding formula and pressures to reduce costs mounting, Optimus Education wanted to create an opportunity for people working in school business management to come together and share solutions on how to do more with less. While the topic may be a tricky one, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with many school business managers (SBMs) wanting to share their challenges as part of our conference research. Key concerns arising from the research included: 

 - the challenge of putting together three or five-year budget plans when you don’t have an accurate revenue forecast

 - how to assess the affordability of staffing structures, and making changes to ensure ongoing viability

 - the need to generate additional income. 

 While Justine Greening has recently announced an extra £1.3bn for core funding for schools and a minimum level of per-pupil funding for the academic year 2019-20, many schools are struggling to maintain staffing and levels of provision for pupils. But within the school business management community there’s a desire to generate and share solutions. 

As business manager and consultant Sue Birchall recently wrote on our blog: “If we take a solution-based approach to any proposals and recognise the opportunity behind every risk, we stand to lose nothing. Attracting less funding can be an opportunity to cut the fat; not just restore but improve the school’s capacity. 

“School business managers have more experience than most of working collaboratively, seizing opportunities and getting the best value from the smallest budgets. It’s time we put it to use.” 

Nickii Messer, consultant and operational lead for Anglia Ruskin’s school business management programmes, shared her frustration in a post entitled ‘Why aren’t more schools business savvy?’ 

“I cannot understand why so many schools continue to indulge such relaxed attitudes to business responsibilities, and I worry that the funding headlines will encourage them to make poor financial decisions. Spending is too often determined by what schools have always done rather than by ideas and actions that are sustainable, clearly prioritised and costed and forward thinking. 

“The first step to improvement is to recognise what must be fixed. If schools do not recognise that sound financial and budgetary management is as vital for the life chances of our pupils as is recruiting and developing good teachers, they will never be able to afford the best teachers in the first place! 

“Schools are complex businesses, and as such they need suitably empowered school business leaders. It is frustrating when schools give a position to someone who doesn’t have the experience or expertise to rigorously manage the complex business functions, or is suppressed from doing so. 

“SBMs must think creatively, accepting that what may once have worked well might never be affordable again. Our relationship with budgets needs to change in tandem. The school and budget planning cycles have to be integrated and planning decisions made to reflect affordability. We need to be held accountable for making the best possible choices.” 

We’re delighted to be welcoming both Sue Birchall and Nickii Messer as speakers at the financial management conference, along with Julia Harnden, ASCL funding specialist, Heather Mitchell of education lawyers Browne Jacobson and Micon Metcalfe, Director of Finance and Business at Dunraven School. It promises to be a day of debate, challenge, networking and positive planning for the future – whatever that may look like. 

See you there! 

Academy Today subscribers are eligible for a 20% discount on the standard rate using promotional code ACADEMYTODAY. 

Find out more and register to attend here.


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