Industry Intel

Insights from Multi Academy Trust Leaders

Charlotte Tidd

Consultant | Not-For-Profit, Finance & Operations

May 23, 2024

Spending six years as a Classroom Teacher, I admittedly knew very little of what the central service team did.

I knew Estates covered the grounds and health and safety concerns, I knew HR was a support system for me, however, I never understood why I couldn’t have additional resources such as pencils or glue sticks towards the end of the year.

Fast forward a year, as a Recruiter, I now spend my time speaking and collaborating with the decision makers of budgets within schools. Through listening to the decisions that they are forced to make daily, I now understand the difficulties they face when allocating funding. This then led to me thinking, if I didn’t know this after 6 years, do other people?

So, I formed some questions to pose to a few of my closest connections within the industry. Through speaking with a CFO of a MAT, School Business Manager in a Single Academy Trust, and a CFOO at a SEN MAT, I gained insight of the operations required to successfully guide their schools for this financial year.

What are your main focuses for this Financial Year?

CFO for a Multi Academy Trust – Oxfordshire

1. After acquiring two further primary schools to grow to a Medium Sized Trust, there is now a focus on addressing the best structure of the central team to ensure all the schools are represented fairly. “I have to think about the most effective way to delegate my School Business Managers.”

2. The second focus, particularly when her Trust is growing, is the consideration of who joins them. “Full due diligence, transparency over finances, and up to date building structure reports need to be considered before anyone joins the Trust. It’s about making sure cultures match.”


School Business Manager in a Single Academy Trust - South East London


1. With little guidance from Government on the necessity to join a Trust or stay as they are, how to best move forward as a school is a concern. “As we are running well independently, the question for us is do we want to join, as opposed to do we have to join.” He continues with the sentiment that strategic decisions must be made to ensure school culture and ethos remains true to them.

2. “Like all schools, we are running at higher operational costs.” Just like MAT’s, the rising cost of living is affecting them. This is forcing the team to think of alternative ways to increase and bring in funding for the school in order keep their lights on.


CFOO, SEN Multi Academy Trust

  1. “As the children have their own learning plan, people assume the schools run differently.” However, the overarching theme is that as a SEN school, the learning of his students is the forefront focus.

  2. The focus of his work is to ensure the appropriate allocation of funding for his students is given centre stage to allow for equal learning opportunities and to abide by the tailored Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) for each student.


What is your main concern for your trust?

CFO, MAT

“Financial uncertainties are a constant concern. Delays in pay agreements for teachers and support staff makes forecasting budgets difficult.” When school budgets typically take up 70% of their expenditure, clear communication and transparency from government is so heavily relied on predicting accurate forecasting for the next year.


School Business Manager, Single Academy Trust

Teacher retention has become a main concern, especially with mid-year staff exits putting a strain on budgets. Balancing the need for qualified educators with the financial constraints of employing relief teachers remains difficult.


CFOO, SEN MAT


The Finance Team of Trusts and SEN departments typically don’t interact. “Finance teams aren’t involved in SEN management.” He believes that if there were group involvement when creating EHCP’s, estimations of costs become known costs.


Common Misconceptions:

CFO, MAT

Teaching is the heart of the school - there is visible evidence of the work that teachers do. “It’s harder to understand the value of what my team does daily because they are less visible to everyone.”


School Business Manager, Single Academy Trust

“Teachers don’t understand the push and pull of budgets that are forecasted at the beginning of the year. Often, they’re just hearing no to their requests for more expensive school trips, or additional classroom supplies.”


CFOO, SEN MAT

“Because teachers read the EHCP plans for the necessary learning requirements, some often assume there is a never-ending budget for the child and fail to understand the costs behind it.”


After gathering these insights from school leaders, I wanted to highlight the Trusts misconceptions, particularly regarding funding, and share my reflections after transitioning from being a teacher myself.

Firstly, the intentions of the central team aren’t to deprive the teachers of additional glue sticks at the end of the year. But, if it’s a matter of repairing a roof or keeping the heating on, the glue sticks aren’t being ordered.

Secondly, the central team are named the central team for a reason. It may not be obvious what they do, but without them, school meals aren’t prepared, the gates won’t open in the morning, and teachers don’t get paid.

And lastly, the common focus of the central teams and their leaders is to ensure that the children are getting the best possible outcomes. The common goal between educators and central teams is to ensure that all the children from their schools leave better than when they started.

Do you have any other main focuses, concerns or misconceptions within your school? I’d love to hear what your thoughts are for the new financial year. Please get in touch and let’s chat: charlotte.tidd@oysterpartnership.com

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Consultant | Not-For-Profit, Finance & Operations

Charlotte Tidd

Charlotte spent 8 years as a primary teacher in both Australia and the UK. Ambitious to achieve her goal to travel around the world, Charlotte joined our Estates & Operations team in 2023, and hasn’t looked back since.

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