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Are you ready for the academies budget forecast return?

 

 

It’s that time of year when minds in the Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) sector usually turn to the annual Budget Forecast Return Outturn (BFRO).

 

BFRO is typically used by the Department for Education (DfE) to review the in-year position and expected outturn of the sector to ensure this financial data can be accurately reported to the Treasury in May. However, for the second academic year running, there have been some changes to the process which Trusts must respond to.

 

This year, instead of the standalone BFRO form, the DfE has combined the BFRO and BFR3Y into a single online form which will also require the Trust’s three-year forecast. This form goes live on 22nd June, with a submission deadline of 27th July.

 

It should be noted that all academy trusts must compile longer-term forecasts for their own internal financial planning as required in the Academies Financial Handbook (section 2.11).

 

Here are my four top tips for MAT Chief Financial Officers and School Business Managers preparing for the academies budget forecast return, and getting ahead of the game with their financial forecasting.

 

  1. Always keep your forecasting up-to-date

As a general principle, whilst it can be easy to get caught up in the ‘here and now’ and decide that with so many unknowns (even with the welcome Covid catch-up premium) MAT forecasting will be lacking accuracy, it remains important to make sure this is up-to-date throughout the year. Having prudent financial forecasts at your fingertips is always needed by MAT leaders to aid decision-making and for boards to make informed decisions using reliable data, so never lose sight of the wider strategic need.

 

  1. Save yourself time, get into good habits

Not only is there a strategic need for keeping your forecasting up-to-date, there is also a workload issue. By keeping on top of a monthly cycle you reduce the effort for each forecast, and are also only ever a month away from your next set of financial data, so you can therefore ensure that decision-making is always based upon current financial information. Unfortunately we still see Trusts who may only prepare a forecast to satisfy the BFR requirements, when actually work on this should be ‘live’ and ongoing.

 

  1. It’s difficult to do this retrospectively

Let’s use the single BFR online form as an example here. If you were to leave the form until the end of July, one element of the BFR submission is your actuals, which cover 1st September 2020-31st March 2021. It is therefore important that the full accounting month end procedure is completed at this point, with all of the necessary adjustments (accruals/prepayments etc) being posted as required. Re-creating historic ‘as-at’ positions is difficult, and accounting systems can struggle with retrospective reporting, so ensuring that this is addressed in April is crucial.

 

  1. Future proof your finances

What this past year has shown is that reliable management accounts are needed, as is agility of financial processes. Trust leaders are familiar with operating within a moving landscape and will know the importance of robust financial planning for the future. This means continuing with their in-year forecasting and formulating strategic budget plans even when information, assumptions and reporting deadlines are uncertain. The lack of a robust forecasting process could limit resources available for frontline application.

 

Here’s how our own MAT software can help: https://www.impsoftware.co.uk/multi-academy-trust-forecasting/ https://www.impsoftware.co.uk/mat-reporting/

 

Will Jordan is Co-Founder of IMP Software, specialists in MAT budgeting systems. You can also download our new insight report, A Growing Philosophy: How are Multi-Academy Trusts developing their operating models through centralisation? here https://cdn.impsoftware.co.uk/2020/12/A-Growing-Philosophy-%E2%80%93-How-are-Multi-Academy-Trusts-developing-their-operating-models-through-centralisation.pdf

 

Schools & Academies Show and the EdTech Summit Take Place Online!

The Schools & Academies Show and EdTech Summit took place last week (17th -20th November), for the first time ever as fully interactive virtual experiences.

The new event format allowed attendees to peruse an online exhibition, visit the virtual Government Education Village; hosted by the Department for Education, tune-in to live panels discussions, take part in live roundtables, workshops and networking sessions, whilst also having access to over 50 hours of CPD-certified best-practice case studies and presentations.

Visitor numbers soared to over 4,500 across the four days of the show, with viewing figures of content doubling the usual maximum capacities at the physical version of the show.

There were an amazing 30,000 messages exchanged throughout the show between visitors, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors. With thousands of connections made, both the Schools & Academies Show and the EdTech Summit has become the UK’s largest online gathering in the education sector!

Plus, due to demand, the event platform will remain open for another three weeks with all the content available on demand. Therefore, you can register via the website to gain access before it is too late!

Throughout the shows, there were keynotes and interviews with the UK’s most influential education decision makers, including:

  • Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, Department for Education
  • Amanda Spielman, HMCI, Ofsted
  • Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Minister for Schools, Labour Party
  • Dr Daniel Susskind, Fellow in Economics – Balliol College, University of Oxford
  • Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships & Skills, Department for Education

Chris Callaghan, Event Director, Schools & Academies Show and EdTech Summit stated;

“Due to the ongoing pandemic we have struggled to host our usual shows this year, and with the mammoth task that schools have faced in the past 8 months, it felt like we were well overdue a chance for schools to connect, share experiences and find solutions.

The general engagement, interaction and sheer number of people visiting online has been overwhelming and we are absolutely delighted to be able to offer the platform for so much information sharing, learning and collaboration within the sector.

Thanks has to go to the exhibitors, sponsors and speakers who continued to support the event and without which, the show could not have happened. Collectively we think it is important to continue to provide schools with a chance to meet, reflect and look to the future, especially given the hectic schedules of any school year, let alone in 2020!”

Stephen Morales, Chair, GovNet Education Advisory Board & CEO, ISBL stated:

Organising, presenting, and participating in virtual events of this magnitude is new to us all. However, the levels of engagement and delegate participation were quite extraordinary. Practitioners were clearly ready to listen, discuss and share.

The challenge for the future will be combining the face to face experience with the interactive functionality of a virtual platform.” 

To find out more about the Schools & Academies Show and the EdTech Summit please visit the website here – https://schoolsandacademiesshow.co.uk/.