A little about me…
I am a School Budget Officer providing financial advice and support tailored to meet the individual needs of a variety of schools. I develop and deliver financial training programmes and work closely and collaboratively with Business Managers and Headteachers.
2015/16 Financial Year Closedown
We've just started a brand new financial year and my first as a School Budget Officer. The new year starts with a preliminary closedown of maintained schools’ accounts and reporting to the Local Authority on the financial position of each school for 2015/16. I have been supporting my cohort of schools to achieve this. As part of this process we work together to identify any capitalisation required, amend any system errors i.e. VAT, account for any accruals/prepayments and generally perform any final housekeeping to ensure a smooth final closedown.
It is an extremely busy time for all School Business Managers as there is a timely deadline for this information to be produced and varying schools holidays as well as delayed post has made this challenging to say the least! Following the Local Authority deadline of 22/4/16 we await any feedback from the Local Authority and prepare an analysis of reserves where necessary before a final closedown of the systems can be performed. It is also a time where schools are anticipating their final carry forward to allow them to start the budget planning process.
Budget Planning for Schools
As School Budget Officers we are all in the final stages of supporting and advising maintained schools in preparation and completion of budget planning before it is submitted to Governors for discussion/approval.
The initial priority is to look at the current year and as far as possible accurately identify/forecast income and expenditure. We use HCSS budgeting software to input the indicative budget provided by the Local Authority, plan for additional income i.e. catering, review staffing and update expenditure lines with anticipated costs. Where annual agreements i.e. SLA’s have been signed up to this can be done accurately but some expenditure is indicative and may need to be reviewed/adjusted later in the year.
We support Headteachers to input a wish list of plans that they would like to see come to fruition during the year i.e. purchase of equipment/implementation of interventions, to allow us to identify/review affordability. For some schools this has meant that some plans have needed to be staged over a number of years.
As a team, we have experienced a real mix of circumstances for schools during budget planning. Some schools are investing in large capital projects; making improvements to school buildings to ensure they are fit for purpose going forward, or upgrading IT equipment in line with the learning needs of their pupils. Others, whose budgets are tighter or whose income has seen a reduction this year are entering more challenging times where difficult decisions are being taken to protect the sustainability of the school in future years.
All schools leaders and Governors are looking ahead at least 3 years to see whether their models/spend/structures are sustainable longer term. All schools have to plan ahead in this way as costs are increasing year on year due to many factors including inflationary increases in services and ever increasing salary/pension costs. It may be that a school with a healthy brought forward surplus this year may still have to look at restructuring to some extent in future years.
Future Funding Implications
As previously mentioned the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) scores have been updated to include 2015 statistical data. The percentage of pupils in Manchester considered to be from the most deprived areas has fallen from 25% to 1%. Although the Local Authority have increased the IDACI banding per pupil allocation to compensate for some of the financial loss, this has had a varied effect on school budgets.
The consultation for the National fair funding formula has just been completed and although no detailed information is available it is anticipated there will be a negative impact from the funding changes for Manchester. Schools have been mindful of this during budget planning and have considered the implications for future years. The Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) will protect budgets falling more than 1.5% for 2017/18 and by this point we will better understand Manchester’s position.
We will keep you up to date as and when we receive any additional details/information.
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