Kickoff your academy’s budget planning this year with Arbors’ new Financial Benchmarking Report

Rebecca Watkins - 1 October, 2020

Category : Blog

Kickoff your academy’s budget planning this year with Arbors’ new Financial Benchmarking Report

We’re all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts.  Having full visibility of all of your income and expenditure is really important in order to understand your academy’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking

We’re all aware of the widespread funding shortfalls in the education sector, and it’s definitely a challenging time to be a budget holder in schools and Multi-Academy Trusts. 

Having full visibility of all of your income and expenditure is really important in order to understand your academy’s financial allocations, like where you may be lacking in funding and areas you might be overspending in. 

We’ve created an Academies’ Financial Benchmarking Report (AFB) for every academy in England, which displays all of your income and expenditure over the past three years in a clear, easy-to-read PDF report. And it’s free!

Your report is waiting for you – simply log into your free Arbor Insight portal to download it

Arbor Financial Benchmarking reports are really popular with Headteachers and Governors as they give you a reliable source of evidence needed to drive forward budget planning decisions.

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Get started with this year’s budget 

It’s best practice to align your budget with your school improvement plan – covering a five-year basis, showing two years in retrospect, the current year, and the next two years’ forecast.

Before setting up any new budget, you’ll want to have handy:

  • Old budgets/past financial data to look at past performance, so you can learn from under and over-spends. You can find the last 2 years of financial data in your AFB report with clear trends shown in line graphs and three-year rolling averages 
  • Student numbers, so you can find the last 5 years of your school numbers in the free ‘School Context’ dashboards in your Insight portal and in the free Performance Summary report we’ll be launching in Spring Term (keep an eye out!)
  • Exam results, so you can identify which parts of the curriculum could benefit from more money, and which have previously benefited. This year, we’ve released seven of our most popular Analyse School Performance reports completely for free to all schools in the country. They’ll give you a complete picture of your student attainment from the past three years! Download yours from your free Arbor Insight portal  
  • Other resource requirements – money needed for insurance, maintenance, etc.

Being aware of where you expect to see larger expenditure and accounting up front for your budget planning and communication is really important. For example, staffing costs in schools typically account for between 75 to 85% of the overall school expenditure and premises costs 10 to 12%. It’s therefore important to forecast likely costs in these areas early on. 

What can I do with my Academies’ Financial Benchmarking report?

Arbor’s Academies’ Financial Benchmarking report is a useful resource for budgeters, as you’ll be able to see all your expenditure and income across key areas shown as a percentage of total spend so you can visualise all of your finances better. We also break down every value as an amount that has been spent or received per student in your academy.

You’ll also be able to benchmark your academy against others in the country that have a similar demographic cohort of students to you, weighted by percentage of prior attainment, FSM and EAL students. If you have a high proportion of disadvantaged students, or perhaps students with low prior attainment, it’s important to see whether similar academies have comparable spending patterns – or if being benchmarked against these academies highlights some areas of funding/spending that might be good to look into. 

In terms of planning your budget and making sure it aligns with your school improvement planning, you can see in the report how your finances have shaped up over the last three years with colour-coded line graphs that include trend figures. We also show the last three years of finances for each resource compared with that of the national average for academies and academies like you. Our three-year rolling average for each expenditure and income resource can help you predict and plan your future three-year expenditure planning. 

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How to present this data to your key stakeholders

Now comes the time to break down your finance data for your team, and for Governors. It’s a good idea to come to Governors’ meetings with easy-to-understand, clear reporting documents, and to feel prepared to explain any holes with recommendations for avoiding them in the future. For example, if you overspent on building maintenance this year, you could suggest implementing more regular building checks to spot problem areas, or negotiating better terms with your insurers and maintenance providers.

Your Arbor Academies’ Financial Benchmarking report gives you a clear, visual overview with concise, expert analysis in handy callouts – perfect for sharing with your Governors to support them in driving decisions.

Next steps

Don’t forget to sign up (for free) to Arbor Insight where you’ll be able to download your Financial Benchmarking report.

Sign up here in seconds: https://login.arbor.sc/auth/register then log in here in future:https://login.arbor.sc/auth/login

When you come to shaping your budget, check out the useful budget planning resources from The Key.

If you have any questions or would like any help with your report, you can reach the Arbor Insight team at insight@arbor-education.com or by calling us on 0207 043 1830.

If you’re looking to keep your cost low and give next year’s budget a little wiggle room, look at how Arbor’s simple, smart MIS can help you not only centralise your systems and data, but also your costs, so that you can focus on what matters most – your students. Find out more with a free demo or join a webinar.

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