As austerity continues to affect the education sector in the UK and the incidence of deficits and financial failure becomes more common, the focus on academy financial efficiency and sustainability becomes more and more important.
Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning, (‘ICFP’) essentially involves taking a ‘clean slate’ approach to curriculum planning by clarifying what are the educational needs of all pupils at the academy.
Another question is: can we afford to run this curriculum? The purpose of balancing needs with affordability helps to ensure that the children are put first by effectively delivering the greatest good to the greatest many.
While these questions and considerations are not in no way new, what might be different is firstly the fresh annual evaluation of whether the academy is meeting the needs of its students rather than just rolling forward the same curriculum year on year. Secondly, while balancing the budget has always been a primary focus, the use of a more analytical approach to considering curriculum affordability – with ratios that can be compared to other schools and trusts provides much greater scrutiny and a stronger basis for decision making.
The ratios and statistics applied by academies for considering financial health and curriculum planning do vary but the three at the heart of this method are:
- Cost per lesson (Broadly calculated as total teaching staff cost divided by number of teaching periods);
- Teacher contact ratio (Broadly calculated as average number of teaching periods divided by total number of periods); and
- Curriculum headroom/ bonus (Essentially a positive or negative statistic based on class size as a % of average class size)
The above calculations help governors and school leaders answer key questions such as:
- What are the optimal number of periods?
- Are staff efficiently utilised?
- Are class sizes efficient?
- What are the costs of free periods of teaching staff?
- Is a new teacher needed?
- Is it viable to keep running a particular subject?
Such is the importance that has been assigned to ICFP that the DfE has made the introduction of this method a condition of grant funding for recipients of the MAT Development and Improvement Fund. To help trusts introduce ICFP, additional funding grants are being given, (‘ICFP Funding’) to buy in an external, independent service to evaluate the Trust’s financial efficiency and make recommendations for improvement. This external evaluation is completed as Annex K of the grant offer letter.
There are a number of tools available to help you with curriculum-led planning and these are great for speed and presentation, but it is important that leadership teams, trust boards & governing bodies understand the language of ICFP and its role in resource management. It is clear that this is expected by the DfE and ministers.
A good example is the DfE’s August 2018 document Supporting excellent school resource management, which includes reference to the concept of ICFP as an approach to organisational planning.
The objective of effective strategic planning is to unlock a whole raft of scenario options that will require input from those with responsibility for curriculum planning and those responsible for financial planning.
If you would like further information on how we can help you, please do get in touch with our ICFP team.