Schools Facing Hard Knocks in Funding

2nd July 2018

While we enjoy a summer of sunshine, the financial forecast for many schools looks stormy. According to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, the impact of inflation and increasing pupil numbers, means that schools are facing cuts of nearly five per cent year on year.

Despite this, schools and academies continue to face the problem of having to fund regular pay increases for unionised teaching staff. This means having to find more money ever year in a landscape that sees nothing but cuts. Single academy trusts find it hard to navigate these financial pressures on their own, while multi-academy trusts (MATs) also have big challenges of their own to confront.

The challenge for MATs is whether to allow each academy in a MAT to receive its total General Annual Grant (GAG) or whether to pool GAG funding between schools and for the trust board to allocate it according to the needs of particular academies. Depending on which direction they choose to go has a knock on effect on the academies themselves. It’s a big responsibility.

Schools Review Payroll Functions

Fortunately, in July 2017 the Department for Education re-allocated part of its budget and increased school funding by £1.3 billion for two years starting in April this year. While this will certainly help support struggling academies, they need to do more to secure firm financial footing. As we move towards the summer, academy leaders are looking to raise income and balance the books through innovative funding opportunities.

Getting creative with funding

For example, one common means by which academies are seeking to raise additional income is through the sharing of their facilities with the general public. Many institutions have high-quality sport and recreation facilities located on their premises in areas where there is a shortage of such facilities for the local community.

Playing fields, tennis courts and swimming pools are in high demand and academies are increasingly seeing the business value in allowing the local sports clubs, community groups and members of the public to use their facilities.

This need to think more commercially has also exposed academies to new threats and previously unknown risks. For example, recognising income and expenditure with designated accounting periods has proved challenging for some academies, whilst failure to recognise the tax implications of additional income has even left others vulnerable to allegations of fraud.

This has revealed the need for proper expertise when it comes to tax compliance and accounts management. Academies need to review their internal processes to make sure they are being as cost effective as possible.

Streamlining operations

For some, this means reviewing the profitability of back office operations. Many schools would rather cut ancillary services than valuable educators. Internal HR & payroll functions are often first on the chopping block, but reducing departments like these has a knock on effect on the academy as a whole.

Most education institutions, including academies, MATs and universities are not fully equipped to tackle the challenges of payroll and HR. Payroll and HR are areas that require specialist tools and knowledge. Rather than investing heavily in in-house skills and technology, payroll outsourcing is often an easier and more efficient solution.

Outsourcing your payroll function gives you access to the expertise you need, for less. Pay spines, teacher’s pensions, temporary staff and split roles all contribute to the unique complexities of academy payroll and you can hand all of this hassle over to a third party.

In addition, physically freeing up your HR & Payroll function gives you more office space for school support staff that commonly work in offices where space is at a premium.

At IRIS FMP, we understand the unique challenges that the education sector faces when it comes to HR and payroll. We are committed to providing reliable, effective payroll outsourcing services for schools, colleges and universities. We also have a number of payroll and HR software solutions that reflect this dedication to efficiency and flexibility, no matter your requirements.
So if you’re in the process of reviewing your HR & payroll processes, speak to IRIS FMP and see how we can help streamline your back office processes in order to help make you more profitable.

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