- Experts help schools slash bills and optimise teachers’ time
- Academy trusts across England welcome the opportunity for impartial advice
- Advisers are part of the package of support offered by Government to help schools make the most of every pound
Money saving experts have found opportunities for schools to plough more than £170million back into the classroom.
A new report found schools that had been visited by School Resource Management Advisers (SRMAs) – finance experts who offer impartial advice – welcomed the support to make the best use of their resources.
Findings demonstrated how SRMAs have been able to help schools optimise their spending so that every pound benefits pupils’ education.
Academy trusts that have taken part in the programme have benefitted from the expert advice and managed to find savings on things such as IT, supply staff and energy bills, as well as helping teachers spend more time teaching.
Changes made after schools have worked with an SRMA have already had a positive impact on pupils across the country.
After reviewing its senior leadership structure, Chapeltown Academy in Sheffield was able to free up funds to add extra classes in popular subjects to its timetable, recruiting two new psychology teachers to meet pupil demand.
And Thomas’s Academy in London, which had a deficit of £226,000 prior to its SRMA visit, decided to review its leadership structure and give two deputy heads teaching responsibilities, offering pupils access to greater teaching expertise.
Lord Agnew, Minister for the School System, said:
“As consumers, we are all regularly advised to look at our household bills, such as energy, who we bank with and our internet providers – so it’s only right that we help schools ask the same questions and get the maximum value possible for their money.
“Our expert advisers are already having such a positive impact on the schools they visit, and alongside the additional total £14 billion investment in schools over the next three years, we want to make sure every pound schools spend benefits pupils.
“We are not asking schools to return funding which is not being optimised, we are asking them to spend it more effectively.”
In the evaluation report published today (27 January) the financial experts identified £35million of savings as part of the initial pilot which ran in 2017/18.
The 72 trusts visited that year have so far realised £4.9million of these opportunities and plan to realise a further £10.08million over the next three years.
After the pilot was extended in 2018, the programme has continued to help schools, with SRMAs visiting 357 more schools and trusts to date and identifying £137million of further opportunities.
Recommendations made to schools, including ways to deploy staff more effectively, are designed to be optional for trusts to implement.
Evidence from the pilot shows that where schools wanted to bring their staff costs down, redundancies were kept to a minimum as trusts decided not to fill vacant posts or redeployed staff to higher priority areas instead.
Whether a trust is facing financial difficulties or not, the role of an SRMA is to give impartial advice to provide effective challenge, share fresh perspectives and highlight good practice from across the sector.
One academy trust in the pilot said their SRMA acted as a useful “sounding board” for ways to improve financial management, while another welcomed the opportunity to discuss ideas with “someone who has significant school experience”.
In addition, 94% of trusts who responded to an evaluation questionnaire rated their experience of working with an SRMA as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
Stephen Morales, Chief Executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL), said:
“As a key contributor to the SRMA initiative, ISBL has embraced the opportunity to help identify, train and deploy members of its professional community as system leaders. This initiative has provided the sector with unprecedented access to the talent and experience of well-established school business professionals.
“The evaluation report shows the very positive impact that strong school business leadership, a robust approach to resource management and effective staff deployment can have on schools and trusts.”
SRMAs are just part of the package of support the Department for Education provides schools to make the best use of their resources. The Government’s School Resource Management Strategy offers practical tools and advice, including on how to reduce the £10bn schools across England spent on non-staffing costs last year.
Support ranges from a free-to-use teacher vacancy service, a price comparison website to cut energy bills, and recommended deals to help schools save on things they buy regularly such as books, IT equipment and software licences.
The Department also offers Regional Schools Buying Hubs, which provide free procurement advice and support to schools when buying goods and services. This service has been extended to offer support to all schools in the North West and South West.
A copy of the full report is now available.