As budgets tighten, the utilisation of staff and the accurate forecasting of costs are critical to managing your school’s most valuable resource – your people!

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The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) takes a strategic approach to staffing structures by setting these against a ‘curriculum map’;  in the June/July issue of Education Executive, trust chief executive Stuart Gardener shares their curriculum-based model to balancing financial efficiency and academic attainment.

An ongoing challenge school leaders face is how to improve standards and enhance attainment while reducing costs. The ultimate priority for educators is creating the environment for students to achieve their best and realise their potential, but – especially in times of tighter funding – it’s also crucial to do this in the most efficient way possible. At the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) we’ve developed a curriculum-based financial planning model which has been able to strike this balance. We’ve saved millions of pounds at our schools across Medway and Portsmouth, all while transforming standards and our students’ life chances over a short period of time.

Mapping your curriculum

Our model, which has been in place for three years, allows school leaders to make efficiencies by evaluating the existing staffing structure at each school and setting it against a curriculum map – which shows how many classes will be required for each subject across each year group. This gives leaders a ‘birds’ eye view’ of the staffing resources required to deliver teaching effectively on the agreed pupil-teacher ratio.

Essentially, it enables accurate forecasting of staff for the next academic year; all our secondary schools sent in their curriculum maps and staffing structures at the end of 2017, giving us the time to intervene well in advance – to recruit a new teacher into a subject, or to hold recruitment if not needed. If a member of staff in a particular subject leaves during the year we know whether we need to hire a fulltime replacement, or if makes more sense to take on a teacher on a fixed, short-term contract.

The Victory Academy

For example, the Victory Academy shows that it’s possible to combine rigorous financial planning and rapid educational transformation. When the school was taken over by TSAT, in September 2015, it had been issued a financial notice to improve, which was almost entirely down to a staffing structure that didn’t match its curriculum and was rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.

Our curriculum-led financial planning model has been at the heart of the school’s transformation – reducing costs by more than £2m over the last three years and improving academic standards. The school is now rated ‘good’ and, in October’s provisional Progress 8 results (+0.44 for all pupils), it was ranked the best non-selective school in Medway, with only three grammar schools ahead of it overall. Reducing costs and raising standards may seem like opposing forces to some, but our model shows they can work in a mutually supportive way.

Of course, our curriculum-based financial planning model may not be the exact path that other academies and trusts choose to go down – different schools have different priorities and circumstances – but the flexibility of the model, in giving trust leaders an overview of the staffing requirements and curriculum needs of their various schools, is something that others can draw great inspiration from.

Continue reading at the Education Executive website.

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