Modernisation Of Financial Processes Key To Academisation

As school operations grow in complexity, streamlining inefficient processes is increasingly important to manage budgets and increase productivity of staff. Paul Grubb, Head of Product in Access Group’s Education Division, explains how innovative technology solutions could be the answer to these challenges.
There has been an increase in conversations within the Education Sector around ways to balance budgets and effectively allocate resources, to continue to provide a high quality and enriching curriculum. It is now widely recognised that back office teams need to be flexible to enable teaching staff to meet these challenges.
Software solutions offer tangible benefits - simplifying and streamlining almost every task, facilitating communication, security and connectivity. 
As academisation continues and more schools look to join expanding multi-academy trusts, manual systems of administration can quickly become outdated and time-consuming. When a school converts to an academy, they require robust systems of communication and reliable information sharing processes to ensure the conversion is as smooth as possible. 
Industry leaders have often flagged information sharing, across departments and trusts, as an area in need of significant modernisation. One way this can be addressed is through the introduction of staff portals. Portals bring information into one place, streamlining processes, facilitating the sharing of documents, reports and provide a platform of secure communication. 
The latest solutions being adapted by schools, such as Access Workspace for Education, have been developed by education experts to allow back office teams to ditch masses of spreadsheets, contact internal and external stakeholders, and track key trends. 
It is difficult to believe that some multi-academy trusts still use emails and standalone spreadsheets as their main method of communication and collaboration. This is not only a risky way of storing and sharing confidential information but can lead to duplication of tasks. Implementing education specific software will allow back office teams to easily access the system via one secure login. 
Most larger MATs may have a dedicated finance department, however smaller trusts and individual schools tend to rely on their back-office teams to operate payroll and process payments which is both time-consuming and complex. As staff costs account for an average of 80 per cent of school expenditure, it is no surprise that the Department of Education believes that greater efficiencies can be achieved through better staff deployment, with back office teams being no exception. 
Atwood Primary Academy approached Access Education, unhappy with the financial procedures they had in place. Michaela Groves, Business Manager, highlighted the fact that, “there’s nothing worse than not being able to do your job due to historical issues with the system in place.” Michaela also discussed the significant time she had been spending trying to fix problems the old system kept throwing up. After making use of technology, such as Access Workspace for Education, the back-office teams at Atwood could get on with tasks that better served the pupils learning and staff wellbeing – the reasons many enter the sector in the first place. 
Increased freedom around procurement and the contracting of services has been identified as one of the most appealing elements of converting from a single school to an academy. Industry leaders, working with some of the most successful MATs, have highlighted how overhauling archaic HR and payroll support systems is critical to meet the evolving needs of trusts.  
If a multi-academy trust decides to invest in new software, it makes financial sense to invest in a solution that can be rolled out across a number of sites but can also be tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual schools. This will allow for more accurate and efficient performance tracking across the entire trust - an increasingly important task often undertaken by back office teams.
Converting to academy status will undoubtedly open doors for schools, with benefits ranging from increased freedom around resource allocation to more efficient budget planning. Single schools will continue to face restrictive budgets, strict procurement guidelines and outdated technology. Effectively adopting innovative solutions is critical to enable schools, academies and trusts to modernise their processes to increase efficiencies and drive productivity.  
Discover how Access Education can help you  implement solutions in schools, academies and MATs, please visit our website and book your free online demo.