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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.

Although it is not a statutory requirement for academies, MATs or free schools, it is recommended good practice to benchmark against similar establishments.

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 schools; you will want to 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 the improvements 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.

Benchmarking Workshop

This year, the DfE have relaunched and updated their benchmarking tool. In order to help you get to grips with this update, we are holding a training session 1st February 2018 to guide you through the process and help you analyse the results.

Don’t worry if you are a maintained school and have completed your SFVS form before then. It is an acceptable response to the benchmarking question to explain that you will complete the benchmarking before 31st March and present it to governors after that. 

If you would like to attend our benchmarking workshop, please click the button below. 

Book Your Place

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