Our School Development Plan (SDP) states “We aim to develop a budget that provides exceptional value for money, an exceptional educational provision, and creates a positive working environment where staff feel valued and supported”. No pressure then!
The SBL role in the senior leadership team is essential, particularly at this challenging time of funding uncertainty, in fact general uncertainty. As SBLs we bring a different perspective to discussions.
This blogs shares the objectives I am accountable for in my academy’s SDP.
1 Ensuring the budget enables us to deliver our strategic objectives
We are a new school, in our second year. If we are going to deliver our vision, we must not only achieve a surplus, but build reserves from nothing to cope with uncertainty and the future costs of exams, while balancing this with spending adequately and effectively for our current pupils.
I am developing my understanding of funding in our borough, trying to keep up to date with government announcements and tackling the inevitable differences between the 7 year DfE set up budget and the realities of the actual costs in the first few years. It is a constantly moving picture.
I find valuable advice on #SBLTwitter, the FD Forum and in Schools Financial Success newsletters.
2 Applying sound school resource management (SRM), in the delivery of educational outcomes
Most SBLs are pulling together the SRM checklist for the 14th November deadline. Although we do not have to submit the data, in my opinion, it is essential to have these metrics to hand and for SLT to debate them regularly. This ensures the integration of curriculum and financial planning, focusing all the different aspects of the school’s resources on our intended outcomes.
Our staffing composition varies hugely. We grow by 10 teachers per year and as many support staff. Our average teacher costs are initially high, with all of our Department Leads in place and few other teachers. Although we will always employ the best teacher, we must attract colleagues across the pay scales. We want to support NQTs developing with us.
Our contact ratios are initially high, with subject leads also being the main teachers. A strong team culture and a focus on wellbeing are critical to support teachers in this situation. As we grow and develop the range of subjects taught, we must plan the curriculum and what this means in terms of staff costs and class sizes, being flexible if we are unable recruit to some areas.
3 Maximising the impact of the Pupil Premium
An area where I believe funding and outcomes are not always fully integrated. It is an ongoing challenge in our community to ensure that all eligible pupils receive Free School Meals. With 64% of pupils currently receiving PP funding, it’s a vital pot of money. We are working hard to understand and evaluate the practices that deliver the best approach and their costs, in our context. A key focus is improving literacy standards. We have employed primary school teachers and a librarian to drive improvements in literacy across every subject and for every child, with a key focus on our PP pupils.
4 Demonstrating sound financial management practice
For all of us who lead on Finance, this is a given. I need to establish our credibility in our early days, to reassure auditors, trustees and our community that we are acting properly and everything we do is aimed at the best interests of the pupils. Some of this can be achieved by clear management accounts. We have trustees with a lot of business interests. My aim is to steer clear of related party transactions, but where they are deemed necessary to add value they must be declared, potentially agreed by the ESFA, and undertaken at cost.
5 Managing premises risks and Health & Safety
This is a big area to grapple with and can involve taking on risks not identified during the handover of temporary accommodation. Safety and reputational risks can be considerable. Once key risks - fire, asbestos and legionella - have been managed, my focus is on wellbeing. This means maintaining the temporary accommodation to create as adequate an environment as possible, without wasting money, because we move to a new building in future.
The challenge, is to keep raising my focus to these 5 strategic objectives, that help our school to grow and thrive.