My approach to integrated curriculum and financial planning starts with the basic relationship between cost and effectiveness. We might want to make sure every penny makes a difference to children and their learning, but it will never be 100% across the whole school budget. When there isn’t the time for full-blown strategic planning, it sometimes helps to cut straight to the detail in an area of particular priority. Where we really need every penny to count. Let me show you what I mean.
Shall we start with an area of real importance – the children who need that bit more?
Grab a large sheet of paper and draw two interlocking circles. On the left is cost, on the right is effectiveness. And the space in the middle? That is where the magic happens.
Start to note down in the cost circle, what are you spending money on to support those who need more?
In the effectiveness circle, what do you know that works, from your data or observations, or from research and evidence elsewhere?
If something costs you money but doesn’t make a difference, do less or even stop altogether. If something makes a difference, but doesn’t actually cost anything, how can you do more?
And then really focus that effort on the things that cost money and could make a difference. If it isn’t working at the moment, that’s the space that needs the strategic plan. Groan, groan….
But there is more to this than meets the eye….
Using the Effervesce framework for education-centred strategic financial planning we can join the dots, because spending affects provision and provision affects outcomes and outcomes affect funding which resources spending. Round and round, joining the dots.
So, take a second sheet of paper and draw a heart in the middle. Then around the edge jot down what you know, and what you would like to find out.
Pupils. What do we know about the children and young people? What are the indicators of need? The trends not just the snapshots, the story not just the data, the ambition not just the past? What are the needs that don’t have an indicator, but we know they are real?
Teaching. What curriculum provision have we made, who has access to the best teaching, are class sizes making a difference, what approaches are we using, and do they work? Are there any links with patterns of teacher absence or cover arrangements?
Support. How are we deploying Education Support Staff? What about their skills and professional development? What external expertise do we have access to? Are we using specialist resources? What about the trips and activities that enrich our provision?
Funding. Indicators of need affect funding, Understanding the connection is important, especially for primary schools, where the prior attainment is usually not “prior” and where success now can reduce funding later. Higher levels of need can sometimes mean lower levels of other non-grant income, particularly voluntary contributions.
Overheads and operational costs. It is possible that the concern for children puts their needs above those of the organisation. Buildings and ICT infrastructure need to be maintained, premises and admin staff need to have time to do their jobs, otherwise, cracks emerge and things (and people) fall apart.
The plan. And at the sharp point, where educational and financial plans join. Embedding targeted funding in the routine may feel unavoidable but it can undermine efforts to focus on those in need. Action to improve outcomes can, in some cases, reduce future funding – be prepared, embrace it! Deprioritising infrastructure and organisational support can leave everything looking (and feeling) tired, including the Head.
What are the two or three things you might do differently?
This is not full-blown strategic planning, it is just a pinch.
This is ICFP for the current times.
When next week is uncertain not just next year. This is possibly a moment to reflect on what works and where the money goes. Because if ever there was a time to shake things up a bit it is now.
If you would like to chat, get in touch. And if you know someone who might find this approach useful, please share it.