In our personal lives, outside of the school gates, we're surrounded by messages encouraging us to become the 'most perfect' versions of ourselves. There is an almost constant encouragement to strive for healthier bodies, expanded minds, and a financially secure future.
We all aim to improve our lives, so shouldn't we take this attitude into the office and start pushing for more? Compliance, by its definition, is meeting the minimum standards to conform to laws or regulations. Why don't we use these benchmarks as a starting point rather than an end goal? Continuous improvement in our careers means looking for the 'art of the possible' and working towards the top, rather than accepting the minimum needed. Best practice means putting children first and giving them the best possible outcomes.
Moving beyond compliance
SchoolMark encourages schools to move beyond compliance and improve their business practice. Although the focus of schools is to educate and foster a lifelong love of learning, there are still aspects of running a school that are similar to running a business. Adopting standards that are already common in other sectors allows schools to squeeze the most out of their budget and shore up their future through tough times ahead.
Created by the sector for the sector
SchoolMark is the only sector-specific accreditation for celebrating best practice in school and trust resource management. It has been created by people in the sector who understand the trials and tribulations of school business. Developed in consultation with the Department of Education and awarded by the ISBL, it is designed to drive an increase in the quality of education through increased efficiency of resources and an improved academic return on investment. SchoolMark lauds schools with the highest standards of resource management and provides a curated support plan to help those that haven't quite made the standard.
Minimum input for maximum output
Centring on the tenets of Quality, Optimisation & Assurance, SchoolMark is designed to be as low an impact on workloads as possible. Participants use self-assessments in 9 key areas of resource management and provide existing documents as evidence in an online portal. The evidence includes the annual accounts, board minutes, and internal audit reports. The only new document required is the application.
The simple process gives SchoolMark's financial experts an insight into how your school runs. The assessors use their professional opinions and real-world experience to judge each application on a case-by-case basis. Every school is different, and this is reflected in the common sense appraisals provided. Every application is followed by a detailed report outlining the achievements, as well as recommendations for improvements. If your school meets the standard, you will become SchoolMark Accredited and this is celebrated publicly and shared with the DfE.
Benefitting your school or trust
SchoolMark can raise the profile of your school or trust by providing tangible proof to your stakeholders that the highest standards are being met. By proudly displaying your SchoolMark plaque, you will be building your reputation as a team that is always seeking improvement as a part of a fiscally responsible establishment.
The SchoolMark process provides a structured framework for strategic reflection and supports internal scrutiny. Resource management should be considered an interconnected web that ensures skills and funds are where they will make the most difference. What does resource management best practice look like in your school? There's no 'one size fits all' rule but having a fresh set of eyes look at your processes could get you out of the trap of 'that's how it's always been'.
Governors and trustees can gain confidence through the independent verification that the school's funds are being used correctly and for the greater good of the pupils in their care. SchoolMark can also be used to demonstrate that they are carrying out thorough reviews of their schools, which can be especially useful if they have not come from a business or finance background. This introspection gives an opportunity to identify where savings could be made. We believe that every school will be able to save more than SchoolMark costs. This improved efficiency will lead to increased funds which can be used to support the day-to-day running of the school or other strategic activities.
School Business Leaders underpin the whole school but rarely receive the credit they so rightfully deserve within the schools themselves. You only have to look at the outpouring of support for the School Business Leader of the Year on Twitter after the National School Awards to see the kind community spirit. By celebrating the impact that the hard work of SBLs has on schools, we hope to raise the status of the profession to get the recognition it deserves.
What accredited schools and trusts say
"SchoolMark has helped us to exercise our duties as trustees by providing independent verification that our trust's resource management systems and procedures follow best practice."
Nigel Harrison, Chair of Trustees, Symphony Learning Trust
"ATT is committed to continuous improvement across all aspects of trust management and is proud to be one of the first recipients of the SchoolMark accreditation."
Debbie Clinton, CEO, Academy Transformation Trust
Better outcomes for children
Far from being a way for men in suits to make money from the school sector, SchoolMark was founded with the ambition to improve the education of Britain's children. Schools with better resource management deliver better outcomes for their pupils. The useful framework and constructive feedback from experts that SchoolMark provides offers schools the chance to move past just being compliant. Why not use SchoolMark as a way to rise up and start excelling?