The School Business Manager had not progressed this.
Financial reporting requirements and timeline
YW confirmed that the timescales for the submitting budgets to the ESFA had been moved to the 26th September.
Directors were concerned over the lack of information being provided regarding finance, and BD will pick this up with the school Business Manager.
BD confirmed that the schools are moving to a new financial reporting system HCSS - which should make reporting easier. The item was discussed further in part 2.
YW had provided reports for finance, for Acton, Calveley and for the MAT. Low pupil numbers mean that income is not as high and expenditure was exceeding income. Whilst there are reserves for both school, at the current trajectory, the reserves would be used up in 2-3 years.
A discussion took place on boosting numbers for Calveley which currently has 68 out of a possible 105 places. Numerous attempts have been made to improve pupil numbers, such as marketing etc.
BD reported that when asking parents why they did not choose Calveley, she confirmed that feedback was that the school looks tired and that the facilities are not as good as other schools. The school has been dropping numbers for the last 5 years, and other schools have invested in their outdoor space.
Acton numbers are also lower than PAN being 165 out of 187
Q: As a small MAT we are struggling financially, we need more schools in order to make the finances work, but if we are not able to attract more schools, at what point do we have to call this, and uncouple the schools?
Directors discussed this question, and agreed that a special meeting be arranged in September to look at trust development and the financial viability of the trust.
Action: A meeting was arranged for September to take a strategic look at the development of the trust and its viability going forward.
YW confirmed that there were bits that were not budget for, and income that has not been received, such as Ofsted inspection income. Income has also been affected by a long term sickness absence that was not covered by insurance. Other costs include, tree work and additional supplies for COVID.
Q: Can we claim from the government for the COVID expenditure?
R: Yes BD reported that they had submitted a claim.
YW reported that the budget is the worst case, but important to understand. She explained that she had used the financial benchmarking tool, which showed that staffing costs were high at 89%, whereas the benchmark is 70%
YW had asked to re-run the budget reports on full pupil capacity, which showed a slight surplus. Improving pupil numbers was vital.
The cost of the MAT central services is high, which means a high top slice of 19%. A discussion took place and Directors understood that as a small MAT, with small school budgets, central costs would appear higher
YW had looked at what would be needed to bring the top slice in line with average, and confirmed that in order to make the top slice 7%, the trust would need GAG income of £3m and 1000 pupils.
Directors picked up the discussion regarding the purchase of Chrome books and felt that whilst this was a lovely idea, Directors were wary of spending such a large amount of money.
BD reported that Ofsted’s focus in the autumn will be on how the school is providing remote learning. It may be frowned upon if the trust has reserves and not improving learning provision.
Directors discussed whether the provision of a Chrome Book for each child was a nicety or a necessity.
Q: What are the reserves?
R: Acton: £277k, and Calveley: £115k. However, if the current in year deficit continues, then this will be used up in 2-3 years.
Q: What DFC does the school have?
R: There is no DFC left.
Q: Would it be possible to trial in one school or one year group?
R: We could - Bridgemere have agreed to lease one for each of its children, we could use Bridgemere as a pilot.
Q: What is the pilot trying to test? Is it improved education, or improved pupil numbers?
Directors discussed the need to have clear success criteria, and to understand the return on investment. It was agreed that it would be attractive but would it bring a return on investment. Directors also discussed that for each additional pupil that attends school, the income is approx £3.5k.
Q: Can we run a pilot and delegate responsibility to BD to choose the best year group, as we need to assess impact?
R: BD voiced concerns over piloting in small numbers, as if the school has to close a bubble or the school goes in to lockdown, then learning would suffer again. The pedagogy in school needs to modernise, and the use of chrome books would mean that children can carry on learning in and out of school. Providing one per pupil would mean equity.
YW stated that the Budget presented include the leasing costs.
Q: If we do go into lockdown, could we look to support the people that don’t have access to equipment?
R: Yes but again the benefit is that Children would be able to use the books at school and at home.
Directors discussed the longterm viability of the trust, there is an element of risk taking to improve, but i expenditure hasn’t reduced or pupil numbers increased, the trust needs to find a way of recouping the cost if it’s not successful in a year.
Q: Have we approached local educational charities for funding?
R: BD will explore
Action: BD to research funding charities
BD feels that the MAT needs to invest in the Chrome books to make the step change in moving to technology, and improving home learning
Outcome: Directors approved the whole-sale provision of Chrome Books, but tasked BD with getting more quotes, and details of insurance.
Action: BD to secure quotations for leave and to buy out right, and provide details of what is included within the insurance.
Improving the outside at Calveley
Directors discussed the need to improve the outdoor space to potentially increase numbers. BD reported that the PTA have offered £5k towards it. BD feels that this is a priority as the school is a poor relative compared to other schools.
Q: How much would it cost?
R: Around £20k is advisable, and if approved by Directors, it would be completed in time for October, when the new intake will be viewing the school.
Directors understood the need to improve the outdoor space, and in principle want to support this, but needed to understand the costs in more details.
Action: BD to source 3 quotes and advise Directors, when a decision needs to be made to meet a completion date of 1st October.
BD stated to Directors that she would rather do the playground than have the chrome books if she had to choose. Directors understood this but wanted more information on the cost.
Clerking for 20/21
The clerk was asked to leave the meeting, whilst Directors discussed their requirements for the forthcoming year.
Outcome: Directors approved the clerking arrangements for the next academic year - and commissioned Su Turner, Insight to Impact Consulting to provide clerking services as per the agreed schedule.
Directors thanked YW for her report.
Action: Finance budget to be approved at the september meeting