Saturday, 26 February 2011

Audit Commission: Improving value for money and efficiency in schools

I recently came across this online document produced in 2009 by the Audit Commission entitled 'Valuable lessons: Improving economy and efficiency in schools' Briefing for school governors.

In July 2009 the Audit Commission estimated that a combined 415 million pounds could be saved by schools through efficiency.

With financial constraints in Schools budgets much tighter than 2009 I decided to revisit their paper and look at the questions they suggested and whether we all ask ourselves these questions as School governors. Many are common sense but some make you think.

Improving economy and efficiency in schools

How much time does your finance committee spend on value for money?

How can you improve the consideration of value for money by the finance committee?

How well does your finance committee challenge the head teacher on value for money?

How does the finance committee keep the full governing body informed about its decisions?

What information on value for money have you made available to staff,parents and pupils?

How well do the spending patterns in your school reflect the school’s development plan and overall vision?

How well does the school development plan cover staff costs?

How are you using this information to challenge your school on the use of its funding?

How does the three-year financial plan assess potential changes in pupil numbers or major costs?

What contingency arrangements does it include?

How will you know if the assumptions in the plan prove to be too optimistic?

Is your school’s surplus balance in excess of the recommended level?

If so, what is the school’s plan to reduce the balance?

How confident are you that the plan will reduce the balance?

Is the school on track to reduce the surplus this year?

School balances can only be spent once; can you be sure that your balance is not committed to recurring spending?

For schools in deficit

Does your school have a deficit management plan?

How will you achieve it?

Buying Goods and Services.

How well do the goods and services that your school buys meet your requirements?

Which goods and services cost the school most and which does the school spend more on than other schools?

Has the school reviewed whether there are better or cheaper alternatives?

Is your school reviewing the quality and cost of each individual service bought from the council annually?

How is the school using technology, including electronic procurement, to minimise the cost of purchasing its goods and services?

If they do not, has your school considered alternatives?

Are the financial limits on buying decisions made by the head teacher,
and other school staff appropriate?

Do you have purchasing thresholds over which quotations or tenders must be sought?

Do you have effective separation of duties between the authorisation and processing of purchasing decisions?

Is there is an audit trail for all major buying decisions?

Has your school made savings by using goods and services more efficiently?

How can your school use Goods or services more efficiently to reduce costs?

Have you challenged your school to consider buying goods and services or carry out joint training with other schools?

What opportunities are there to save money by sharing teaching or non teaching staff with other schools?

What are the opportunities to buy or sell specialist staff skills between local schools?

Has your school reviewed the costs and benefits of federation or clustering with other schools to achieve possible economies of scale?

What did it find?

How well do you understand the financial reports and performance data you receive?

How do they help you to make decisions about economy and efficiency?

Do you know which areas of spending in your school are higher than in a similar school?

And in which areas is it lower?

Do you know why?

What savings has the school made in the last year?

What further savings can the school make this year?

What was the cost to your school of improving outcomes?

What will the school’s future improvement plans cost?

The full report can be viewed on the Audit Commission Website here

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