Smarter budget and financial planning for multi-academy trusts

28th October 2022

In a tough financial climate, schools will need a smarter approach to manage tighter budgets. Finance software that gives a complete view will be key says Jonathan Sharps, Director of Financials & Compliance at Civica Education.

In a letter to MPs and ministers recently, educational leaders raised the alarm about the precarious financial position of schools around the UK, which will, they say, severely impact the quality of education for pupils. These concerns were echoed in an even more recent survey carried out by the Association of College and School leaders, which found that 58% of schools were looking at reducing teaching staff and increase class sizes, while 43% are considering reducing curriculum options.

With rampant inflation, teacher wages set to increase by 6% and soaring energy bills having the potential to soon consume up to 8% of their entire budget, schools around the country are facing a bleak financial situation.

With no clear end in sight to their financial challenges, school leaders need - now more than ever - a smarter approach to managing their finances.

Seeing the financial big picture

Managing school finances is no easy task in the best of times. Current DFE guidance requires schools to produce a 3-to-5-year financial projections, plus the assumptions made to cost them. With school leaders now however predicting a £2 billion real-terms funding shortfall 2024, this task will become all the more difficult.

To navigate the financial turbulence which lies ahead, schools will need a single, up-to-date, comprehensive, understanding of their finances, from staff wages to school meals to building maintenance. Having a continuous view of the ‘financial big picture’ is the best way of ensuring that every cost is factored in and not a single pound goes to waste. Across the UK right now, schools are using a range of software solutions to manage different types of expenditure. Oftentimes however, these systems and the vital data they contain are not joined up. If your technologies are not talking to one another, you will end up creating more work – and costs. This is exactly what Civica specialises in helping schools to avoid. Our Financials software integrates seamlessly with our PeopleLIVE HR & Payroll solutions, helping school leaders create secure, comprehensive forecasts with minimal hassle.

What about the ‘what-ifs’?

Gathering and inputting data from different systems across different sites is both time and resource intensive and runs the risk of errors. But this doesn’t need to be the case. Having a ‘one-stop-shop’ financial management system will help school leaders to making informed, strategic decisions that can help them navigate funding pressures and rising costs.

Crucially, given the uncertain economic climate we face, schools must be able to plan for the ‘what-ifs’ and the financial burdens they may entail. The COVID pandemic and the current energy crisis are stark reminders that schools can never truly be prepared for every possible scenario. We can do our best to plan for what’s around the corner, but we can never be certain. What schools can do however is ensure they have the right systems in place to help them quickly adapt and mitigate against whatever challenges they may face.

Easing the burden

The Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) model, championed by the recent Schools White Paper, presents school leaders creates a very timely opportunity to pool resources and thereby reduce some of their financial burden. Whatever their model however, every school is facing a period of belt-tightening, with no immediate end in sight. As one of the UK’s largest software providers to the education sector, we’re acutely aware of the pressures school leaders are under right now and we’re committed to helping them get a tighter, smarter grip on their finances so they can deliver the best for pupils and parents.

How Civica can help

Our Civica Financials cloud finance software can help school leaders create secure, comprehensive five-year forecasts, make informed, strategic decisions that can help them navigate funding pressures.

Learn more about Civica Financials

Jonathan Sharps,

Director of Financials & Compliance, Civica Education

Civica Financials integrates seamlessly with our HR & Payroll solution, Civica People Hub helping school leaders create secure, comprehensive forecasts with minimal hassle.