I am sure all of you have been following updates on COVID-19 and the grave impact it is currently having across the world. Whilst more and more countries take action to manage and mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the efforts of many governments and authorities as well as healthcare staff worldwide to fight this pandemic deserves the greatest respect. This respect also extends to critical workers including schools and academies staff.
Here at SAAF we are seeing school support staff levels becoming more and more stretched due to sickness and the requirements around self-isolation, yet statutory financial and payroll responsibilities still have to be met irrespective of the circumstances we are finding ourselves in.
The forced closure of schools and academies has inevitably led to schools incurring costs that were not initially budgeted for; such as teachers preparing “home-learning packs” for pupils, the use of more online education platforms which can be accessed by learners remotely and supporting parents with lunches where pupils are eligible for free school meals. There has also been an expectation placed on schools to perform deep cleansing during the closure.
The above efforts are seeing schools incur a similar pattern of expenditure with some of the costs having been accrued before the government decision to close schools was taken. The financial impact on individual schools due to COVID-19 and the subsequent closure is not yet fully known but the DfE has requested that schools keep a record of all expenditure relating to COVID-19 in order to make a future claim and identify expenditure for local audit arrangements when reporting financial accounts.
During this prolonged lock-down period we at SAAF have pulled together a top 10 list of things to do to ensure working from home is as stress free as possible:
- If cashflow allows, you may want to consider paying all outstanding suppliers in one large payment run
- Speak to your IT support to set up remote access not only to your finance system but also to your electronic files
- Speak to your payroll provider regarding how they are continuing to operate whilst under government restrictions. If required, instruct them to pay staff to contract, ensuring your staff receive their basic monthly payment
- Utilise video conferencing e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams to stay in contact with team members and check on their wellbeing each day
- Nip to the school to collect your bank key generators enabling you to process payments remotely if required
- Set up a COVID-19 cost centre and code all related additional costs in your finance system to this code
- Utilise a log such as the free to download SAAF Education – COVID-19 Additional Cost Log so you have a running view of additional costs incurred or revenue lost due to the disruption. Click here to download the Free Additional Cost Log.
- Consider the guidance (Click here to read the full DfE guidance. ) that has been published by the DfE setting out financial support that has been set in place for schools to cover COVID-19 costs between March 2020 and July 2020
- Engage with an external finance support provider, then if additional support is required due to your finance staff becoming unwell you will avoid service disruption
- Keep smiling, although this situation has thrown up many challenges, they can all be overcome and in many ways will change the way in which we work for the better!