How SchoolMark can help support strong financial management


Wouldn't it be nice to find a magic wand that can magically transform your school or trust's finances? Unfortunately, SchoolMark won't become your fairy godmother – but it can be a vital tool to support your school or trust as you move towards strong financial management.

Schools are full of experienced and passionate school business managers and finance professionals who know their school's budget to the penny and can quote their three-and five-year plan forwards and backwards. We also can't forget the work of governors and trustees who give up their own time to set the strategic goals of the organisation and oversee the planned spending to try and get the best outcomes for all the pupils.

School finance is a bit like painting a masterpiece. Getting the details correct is essential but when you have your nose pressed up to the canvas, it's easy to forget the piece as a whole.

Going through the SchoolMark process can be a fantastic excuse to bring your trust's senior leadership team together. At the start of your journey, your team can discuss your answers to the self-assessment questions and what evidence your school or trust that already supports your answers.

Accredited trust, East Midlands Academy Trust, found that, apart from gaining their award, these meetings were the most beneficial part of the SchoolMark process. After you have received your report, gather your senior leadership team again to discuss the findings and to discuss what you can do to implement the findings. What could your trust gain from your senior leadership team coming together with a specific focus to improve your financial management to strengthen the outcomes of your pupils?

Your SchoolMark report provides an individual road map to help you on your journey to be the absolute best that you can be, but perhaps most usefully, it provides you with benchmark figures so that you can compare yourself to other schools and trusts. Take, for example, ICFP. Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning is the practice of reviewing your expenditure to ensure that you have as an effective a budget as possible and can then deploy any other funds for specific purposes that will really enhance outcomes for children.

Your SchoolMark report will compare the ICFP from your organisation to key sector benchmarks, which the DfE use to evaluate school financial planning. We have seen schools which have worked to introduce ICFP save £250,000 per year through identifying a more efficient deployment of staff and then being able to use that annual 'saving' to spend on other great initiatives, such as extra and targeted interventions, or to support refurbishment of school buildings. However, metrics alone are not the answer. They just provide a snapshot of where you are currently but it doesn't give any nuance. You may have a 0.73 contact ratio but have recently taken on more ECTs (Early Career Teachers). Your school may have groups of children that are particularly in need of additional intervention support to help your students flourish. The two most important things to focus on is what do your students need and could you spend the money to better effect elsewhere? Could you get better outcomes by using that money differently?

SchoolMark provides schools and trusts with a framework for self-review. It is not a process targeted at helping you save money, although you will likely save significantly more than the accreditation costs, the real value comes from SchoolMark facilitating focussed conversations, and recognising aspects of best practice in your organisation, celebrating those, and shining the light of other possible improvements. SchoolMark encourages stronger financial leadership by using documents that you already produce as evidence against the standard of best practice. Set up by sector leaders in consultation with the DfE and awarded by the ISBL (Institute of School Business Leadership), SchoolMark is on a mission to improve the standard of school resource management across the sector. As a result, the role of SBMs will become more recognised as a key pillar of school administration. The DFE's new School Resource Management strategy talks about system led improvement. SchoolMark is a key part of this structure and offers great evidence to your auditors about the things that you do well and provides your governors / trustees with external assessment of areas that are in their review, helping them to demonstrate great governance.

If you don't feel that you'll pass, we would still encourage you to sign up for SchoolMark. Once our experts have reviewed your evidence on the online portal, they will provide a detailed feedback report. If you haven't passed the first time, the report will provide a roadmap to success, with a free reaccreditation attempt within 12 months. If you have passed, it will give you some tips to improve even further, and you will be celebrated as one of the best schools / trusts in the country for effective school resource management.

Click here to contact us if you would like to learn more about what SchoolMark can do for you.

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