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Funding for pupils at academies is reducing in real terms but trusts are experiencing significant increases in costs. The message from government is clear. Academy trusts are expected to manage within the funds provided. There is no pot of money to bail out those that get into difficulties. At the same time expectations on the quality of education provision are increasing. Educational and financial rescues by the DfE come with a loss of control and academies being moved to other trusts.
Effective and pro-active financial management is therefore now essential for academy trusts if they are to remain viable. Managing finances needs to be a whole of organisation function. The board, governors, CEOs/principals and senior leadership teams all have a key role to play. However, this requires a change, in terms of both culture and behaviour, in many academy trusts.
To deliver the quality of the education deserved by our young people within the funding available, it is widely accepted now that academies should work together. As it becomes more difficult to balance budgets, joining multi-academy trusts or working in collaboration with others will become unavoidable.
Only by taking these steps can costs in support functions be reduced and necessary efficiencies in delivering the curriculum be made. The changes required to successfully add schools to existing trusts or to establish mutually beneficial collaborations can be complex while the impact of failure on academy management and finances and therefore pupils can be severe.