Schools to get expert advice from leading business advisers

School Systems Minister Lord Agnew announces expert business advice for schools to help them make every penny of education funding count

Lord Agnew
Lord Agnew

Expert business advice is being offered to schools across the country to help them make every penny of education funding count, the School Systems Minister Lord Agnew has announced today (Thursday 17 May).

Speaking to over 200 Business Leaders at the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference, Lord Agnew confirmed that over 40 business advisers – who are all experts in the field – are signed up to start offering hands-on bespoke business support to schools, with 26 already benefitting.

Schools spend millions of pounds each year on running costs and the advisers will offer tailored advice to help school leaders maximise their resources and budgets. This could include smarter ways to buy essential services like water or electricity, or innovative ways of timetabling classes to free up teachers time.

Evidence shows up to £1 billion of savings could be made on non-staff spend in schools by 2019-2020 which could be reinvested in frontline resources. This will help raise standards in schools even further, with 1.9 million more children now in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.

School Systems Minister Lord Agnew said:

"How schools use their money is important in delivering the best outcomes for pupils and business leaders are essential in ensuring the cogs of a school keep on turning.

"We know time is precious for school staff and making every penny count is vital. Together with our wider package of support for schools, these advisers will help us to maximise resources, freeing up teachers to focus on delivering a knowledge-rich education and giving every pupil the opportunity to make the most of their lives."

The advisers are part of a new pilot run by the Department for Education with the Institute of School Business Leadership. Since January, they have been going into schools and trusts with the greatest need. Following the visit, each school is expected to develop a plan which will set out how it intends to improve.

Stephen Morales, Chef Executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership said:

"The SRMA pilot has provided important capacity to the system, supporting Academy Trusts with their approach to Financial Health and Efficiency. The rigorous accreditation process advisers have to undertake has helped identify a growing group of exceptional School Business Leaders and resulted in the production of high quality case studies and recommendations for improvement. The lessons learned will be of value to the education system as a whole as we begin to disseminate findings."

Dr John Smith, CEO and Accounting Officer, University of Brighton Academies Trust said:

As an experienced senior budget manager and educationalist the Schools Efficiency Adviser, having invested time in understanding the particular context, and comparing costs to a range of benchmarks, provided alternative perspectives on use of resource which could positively impact the budget, providing robust yet supportive challenge. This resulted in alternative strategies for some resource management being adopted by the academy resulting in a longer term sustainable budget being set.

In his speech, Lord Agnew will recognise the responsibility school business leaders have and highlight how this is the latest in a string of services designed to support schools to make every pound count, including the Good Estate Management for Schools service which is a one-stop shop for everything schools should consider when managing the estate and our agency supply teacher service.

By 2020, the core schools budget will rise to a record £43.5 billion – 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000. But like all other public services, taxpayers expect the funding to be spent as effectively as possible to maximise outcomes for pupils.

All the advisers are subject to a rigorous assessment process to ensure they can provide schools with appropriate guidance for individual needs.

The pilot will run until August 2018 and hopes to reach at least 60 schools. Any learnings will be used ahead of the national roll out of the programme in September 2018.

Other tools provided by the Department for Education to support schools include:

• a new service – which is being trialled initially in the north-west and south-west – offering schools advice on how to get the best value for money when buying support from businesses;

• the Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) which is a one-stop shop for everything schools should consider when managing the estate. It ranges from guidance on health and safety management to advice on how to minimise energy and water usage;

• using the system’s collective buying power to help schools secure better deals on the goods and services they purchase regularly. This includes saving them 10% on their energy bills or 40% on printers, photocopiers and scanners; and

• providing benchmarking tools so that schools can compare themselves with others with similar characteristics.