The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Liz Worthen

Achieving value for money: a team approach

Is your school budget spent wisely? Staff training is key to creating a value for money culture.

As a school business manager, how many times have you tried to explain value for money to the budget holders on your staff? Are you one of the lucky ones with a financially-literate governing body, or do you have to explain the difference between capital and revenue every time you present a report to them?

Do you have a head who’s ready to come out and say ‘I love my school business manager’ or are you driven to tears of frustration because no-one in the SLT actually understands what you do?

Getting people to understand their individual and collective responsibility for sound financial management requires a structured and determined strategy. And your role as school business manager is pivotal to making it happen.

Of course, it’s not something you want to do on your own – which is why we asked experienced business manager and leader Nickii Messer to develop a training course on achieving value for money which you can use to skill up your staff.

The course consists of three units, each targeted at a different group: governors, senior leaders and budget holders.

The aim of the course isn’t to create financial whizzes, but rather to ensure everyone gets the basic principles of where the money comes from, what the schools financial value standard is, how budgets (should) link to the school development plan, and what ‘best value’ involves.

Understanding best value

The training includes discussion and group activities to help build confidence in understanding key principles. For example, you could use the following activity to improve understanding of the ‘best value’ concept.

Group activity

In groups, look at this definition of best value:

‘Best value requires an authority to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy (costs), efficiency (throughputs) and effectiveness (outcomes).’

The New Best Value Statutory Guidance Consultation: Summary of Responses and Government Response, 2015

As a group, ask yourselves:

  • Do you agree that you have a role to play in measuring Best Value?
  • How would you measure the three Es (Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness) in terms of your activities?
  • When you decide what to purchase, do you consider (any or all of) the three Es?
  • Is it important to ensure that procurement of resources and services will lead to improved pupil outcomes?

Be prepared to feed back any key points.

Help! I’ve never delivered training before

If you find the idea of ‘training others’ daunting, think of this instead as a process for sharing knowledge and supporting understanding. You do this every time you explain something to a colleague or governor in the normal process of your work. So this is not anything new, just a different way of doing it.

Don’t be afraid of your audience. They will be there to learn from you, not to trip you up.

Each training unit comes complete with presentation, handouts and trainer notes.

The notes are there to guide you in selecting the key, relevant information that you need to impart and to help you ensure that colleagues understand this information in a consistent and whole-school context.

Getting people to value what you have to say and the vital role you have within the school starts with you understanding and valuing yourself, what you do and the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding that you hold. More than anything, this training course gives you – and your colleagues and governors – the opportunity to learn so much.

Improving financial outcomes

The education sector has grappled with efficiency for a number of years and schools are facing some tough operational challenges.

This report suggests a series of continuous improvement strategies and new ways for school business leaders to make significant savings.



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