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Posted on: 22/04/2024

ESGA hosts "Overseeing Financial Performance" Webinar

Over 55 governors from maintained schools and academies joined our April Coffee & Chat webinar, "Overseeing Financial Performance."

Justine Berkely and Cherie Ames-Tull from SBM Services gave a presentation that covered content relevant to governors of maintained schools, academies and special schools. All 75 governors who registered to attend received a copy of the slides, sample templates and the link to watching the webinar recording on Youtube. (Email us now to book your place on our next online event!) 

SBM Services provide schools with high quality financial management reporting and shared their insights with our ESGA audience. "It's really important for every board to have at least one governor or trustee with relevant financial expertise," Justine reminded us all. This webinar provided useful, training, resources and insights to Essex governors. 

"I thought it was an excellent and incredibly useful session as a new governor. Thank you for putting this on!"

ESGA chose to invite SBM Services, whose business is supporting schools with financial management, because governing boards are approving budgets around this time of year, so it's a great time to provide networking and training for our members. Practical discussion such as:

  • what proportion of total income to carried forward to a future year,
  • how boards can show they have considered their school's financial sustainability over the next 12 months,  
  • why salary projections provide assurance of secure financial practice in the biggest spending area for schools. 

Governors were treated to seeing a great example of the financial management reporting that boards should receive from their school. Best practice advice and tips abounded; Governors can feel confident that asking for variances to the budget to be accompanied by a commentary in the reporting is a reasonable and appropriate request for example. "Sometimes system-generated reports like Cost Centre ledgers aren't sufficient for governors to carry out their duties," suggested Justine. Governors should be satisfied there are good processes in place in school and they are being implemented consistently; invoices paid, transactions on the system, are they reconciled, does the VAT account reconcile? Governors should not be afraid to ask questions and "make sure you understand the answers" said Justine about interrogating the medium-term forecasting.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Finance should be set by the board. These could include tracking the income per pupil over three years, the cash balance compared to income as a percentage, or the proportion of total staff costs to total income for example. Governors can agree a materiality level where any variation above that level, say £5k, includes a comment on the detailed income & expenditure report that everyone can understand. 

The Department for Education is placing a big emphasis on ensuring schools are monitoring and reporting on their financial health and the DfE have a dedicated portal on financial health and efficiency containing lots of great resources for governors. There is a free service to bring in a SMRA, but governors should note that "this does cause additional work in school to provide all the supporting information the SMRA needs to complete their assessment" Justine advised. 

More and more schools are using Integrated Curriculum and Financial Planning to create the best curriculum for pupils with available funding. Maintained schools should also be aware of the Essex School finance service, a free statutory service to help and support maintained schools with finances including secure access financial insights for your school.

Governors are all aware of the school financial benchmarking website and recognise that this data is refreshed once a year so can be out of date. However, it's a useful tool for boards to identify those areas where there is significant variation to comparable schools; so the school can report to governors on proposed solutions or justifications for the variation.

Through the financial targets, monitoring and reporting, governors should feel confident about whether their school's financial situation is improving. Every board should ask itself: "What are the right financial targets for our school next year?"

Questions & Answers

As ever, ESGA webinars are designed to enable our Essex governors to ask questions and share best practice:

Governors were able to ask "when do pupil numbers affect funding. An they were able to get the answer that for the main funding stream, it's the October Census that determines future funding. UFSM takes an average over 2 census, other funds can be at different times.

A special school governor asked if there pupil numbers go up and down throughout the year, how does the funding follow outside of census day. 

An academy governor asked if the trust board should provide the local governing board with a monthly accounts information you'd go back to your scheme of delegation and go by what that said. SBM have developed a Toolkit and subscription for schools for a nominal fee that provides support to governors and school business managers 

Cherie noted a comment from a governor: a governor had presented insights from recent finance training at a board meeting and this helped overcome resistance by the school to providing some financial reporting. 


"Really useful to me as a non-finance governor."

"This has been very helpful session, Many thanks to everyone who helped organise and present."

"I thought Justine’s presentation was great but I must admit I have never found local government finance easy to understand so it is good to know that we have Justine and Cherie to assist in these matters."

Upcoming Events

Our next Coffee & Chat is 10th June 2024 at 6:30pm over Zoom so do join us for an informative and interactive ESGA Coffee & Chat by booking your place now





Written by Claire Styles