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SAAF Education Blog: Financial benchmarking and why you need it

Financial benchmarking and why you need it

Benchmarking can be a valuable process as it enables comparisons of income and expenditure with other schools. With this comparison you will then be able to consider how your resources can be used more efficiently and identify areas of improvement that may be required.

Why should you benchmark?

Benchmarking is a requirement for the School Financial Value Standard (SFVS) that all maintained school governors need to complete before the end of the financial year and the new School Resource Management Self Assessment Tool (SRMSA) for academies, MATs or free schools. 

Benchmarking allows you to understand your position and identify areas of strengths & areas to improve.

Areas of expenditure to consider may be:

  • Teachers costs
  • Other staff costs
  • Supplies and services of educational resources or non-educational resources
  • Building maintenance and improvement

IMPORTANT NOTE: Benchmarking is only a guide and if you find yourself at the end of the spectrum, lower or higher than other establishments; you should consider the reasons for this.

Are there special circumstances that would explain your school appearing in the upper or lower quartile? This should be taken into account when comparing to other schools.

How to benchmark for the best results

When selecting who to compare your data with, you should keep in mind characteristics such as: area, school size and percentage of pupil premium children.

For effective benchmarking it is best to compare yourself with educational establishments whose characteristics are similar. They do not need to be ‘identical’ in order to produce a good comparison.

When evaluating your results, it is best to ask yourself a number of questions such as:

  • How does your spending compare with the spending of similar schools and what does that tell you?
  • How do these results compare with the results you received last year? Are there any large changes?
  • Does your spending relate to the school improvement priorities?

Asking yourself questions like these will help you analyse your data more effectively.

Using the data

Once you have collected and analysed your data, it is best to start planning for the next financial year and how you will tackle the changes and implement any improvements. When doing this it will be useful to consider:

  • How to monitor your spending on a regular basis to ensure your finances are being used according to school priorities and stay within the specific budget set?
  • How will this benchmarking data help to inform future decision making?
  • How will you make these changes to make sure your resources are used to support high-quality teaching and the best outcomes for your pupils?

Remember, the benchmarking comparison will not explain why your establishment has higher or lower expenditure than your comparative establishments, it is to review the differences and identify the reasons for them. Once you have identified the factors that led to this area of high spending, you can then discuss and evaluate how resources can be managed more effectively in the future.

If there are any areas where you cannot give a reason for the spending being out of line, then realistic goals should be made to change these as soon as possible.

2018-19 Benchmarking data is now available for schools

This year, the DfE have updated the local authority maintained school data for the period 2018-19 two months earlier than last year.

You should notice the following changes to the new data:

  • improvements to the high-progress comparison function
  • improvements the school search results page and
  • various bug fixes.

Currently the data available on the benchmarking website for academies is 2017-18.  

Don’t worry if you have completed your SRMSA or SFVS form already. It is an acceptable response to the benchmarking question to explain that you will complete the benchmarking before the end of the financial year and present it to governors after that. 

The following questions are included in the SRMSA and SFVS which relate to benchmarking:

  1. Do you benchmark the size of your senior leadership team annually against that of similar schools?
  2. Do you benchmark your income and expenditure annually against that of similar schools and investigate further where any category appears to be out of line?

You can access the data here: https://schools-financial-benchmarking.service.gov.uk/ 

If you would like support to complete your financial benchmarking click the button below to contact us.

Find out how we can help

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