The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) recently stated that schools need an extra £5.7 billion to give every child the education that “society expects and children deserve”. And with our report finding 82% of schools have been asked to reduce budgets, the road ahead looks increasingly complex.
It’s vital to look at the current digital landscape for academies and multi-academy trusts (MATs) to see how the cloud can be used to uncover relevant data insights, and the risks of not doing so. Here, we explore the four main ways cloud software can bring agility and real-time insight to drive more effective finance management in schools.
1) Free up valuable time
Our research found that 14% of MATs have not yet centralised their finance systems, despite evidence which suggests that they are less likely to be in deficit if they do so.
The pressure on finance managers combined with the extra time spent on administration, means that they are not able to spend time spotting trends and anomalies that could help them save money. Standardising financial reporting and forecasting will alleviate some of the pressure on the finance team, allowing them to focus on maximising budgets while student numbers grow and demand on services rises.
2) Create a single view of finances
By creating a complete view of their financial data, MATs can more easily see where overspending is happening, or is at risk of happening. Finance and operations managers can use this full insight into academy finances to operate as a single entity, helping them streamline their processes while continuing to grow.
This cloud-based consolidated database can then be used by trustees – by gaining real time insight into the financial health of a MAT with ease, both trustees and head teachers alike will have a much clearer picture of income and expenditure, creating a secure and auditable process.
3) Help find new and previously hidden opportunities
Access to real-time data is vital. Cloud-based software can help MATs in their drive to be more flexible. Opportunities to maximise budget are constantly changing, and academies and trusts need reliable systems that can easily grow with them to offer them the flexibility that they require in today’s changing landscape. This, combined with a centralised database, will allow MATs to make savings and create further efficiencies, such as negotiating favourable rates with suppliers and sharing financial best practice across academies.
4) Develop benchmarks
By embracing a centralised cloud-based finance system, MATs can develop benchmarks for each academy which will help inform future planning and governance.
This will provide head teachers with the insights they need to compare accounts across academies, gain a better understanding of financial health, make it easier to share best practice, and ultimately deliver better outcomes for learners.
Schools need to make the most of what they have available: key to this is centralising data and resources using cloud software which can easily scale and provide fast analysis of insights across more than one organisation. By doing so, MATs will obtain a complete view of financial data to help spot opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies. With greater insights into where money and time is spent and could be allocated, schools will be better placed to make sure students truly receive the education they deserve.
This insight is part of techUK's Cloud Week 2020. You can find related news and insights here.