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Governor Live Review: Budgeting basics for governors and trustees

Governor Live Review: Budgeting basics for governors and trustees

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The third Governor Live of 2017 – Budgeting basics for governors and trustees, part of our mini-series on finance – took place last Thursday evening, the 23rd of March. Karen Rae – chair of finance at a secondary Academy and Audit & Assurance Director for Armstrong Watson – spent about thirty-five minutes covering budgeting from scratch, including:

  • What is a budget?
  • What is our budget looking to achieve?
  • Key Personnel/Responsibilities;
  • Factors in setting the budget;
  • Worked examples of:
    • Budget preparation;
    • Budget monitoring;
    • Budget influences.

This was then followed by an extensive time of questions and discussion – the recording of which and slides from are further down the page

Presentation slides

Here are the slides from Karen’s presentation, reproduced and shared with permission:

Questions asked by participants

  • How regular is regular when reviewing a school budget? Helen 2: Our school has a long list of items for the SDP but none of them are costed. when challenged the school says it is all deliverable by the existing staff. I don’t know what more to do to get to the bottom of this?
  • As the school financial year ends in March and next budget is set but the SDP for the next academic year is set in summer term it is difficult to link the budget to the plan as the plan isn’t secure yet. How do you get around the disjoint between financial year and school year?
  • We are facing our first deficit budget (maintained secondary school) and the Governors are refusing to approve it. What happens next?
  • In reality, with the shrinking income compared to rising costs, there is very little wriggle room after staffing. Does anyone else think that the recent government target of 75% budget spending on staff as realistic a target as unicorn farming?
  • What comes first staff workload impact? Or correct utilisation of funding? If you have no reserves and a deficit, the staffing costs are the largest in a budget, potential redundancies! staff morale-workload impacts!? Seems to me chicken or egg!
  • How acceptable is it for mis-coding in a budget? Hard to track what is being spent where to then make informed decisions about how to use past budgets to plan future ones…
  • What is ‘reasonable’ for the MAT service charge as this is money that should be for the cohort will be trying to get service charge reduce!
  • Is there a recommended % of budget that should be set to teacher professional development? Teacher Development Trust did a survey and primaries came out at 0.67% of budget is CPD – is that good enough?
  • I’m a new governor who is struggling to get hold of a financial position of any detail for the current year. Is this normal?
  • Hi I’m also a new governor and in the same situation as Suzanne. I’ve asked for a narrative to accompany the figures to help understand them better, but have been told the staff are too busy. Also figures only
  • I was wondering if there as a standard ratio expected to compare any I calculate on our actual school
  • For trusts/GBs who manage more than one site and staff travel between how do you report staffing costs for each school without end of year recharges?

Resources shared during the discussion

Karen shared three PDF versions of sample documents regarding a fictitious academy’s budget:

  1. Budget Preparation spreadsheet (PDF version);
  2. Budget Monitoring spreadsheet (PDF version);
  3. Budget Influences (PDF version).

Participants’ evaluations

Here are some of the comments made by those who took part:

“I’m usually so fearful of finance, so it was so helpful to go back to basics.”
“A lot of information given and I am set with a few question for my next governor meeting.”
“Fantastic resources and clear explanations.”
“Some useful information. Really like the Budget Influences sheet.”
“Coherent – planning to phrase some q’s at our next Resources Meeting.”

Watch the recording

There are two options for viewing the record. The first is on the Modern Governor Adobe Connect server, and allows you to search the text of the slides and discussion between participants during the event. This requires the Adobe Flash Player and therefore won’t work on a smartphone or tablet.

A more accessible but less interactive version of the recording is available on the Modern Governor YouTube channel:

The next Governor Live session: Understanding cash flows for school governance

On Thursday the 30th of March at 8pm Karen will be presenting the next Governor Live session entitled Understanding cash flows for school governance. Here’s her introduction to this session:

Karen Rae

Monitoring the bank balance at each month end is no longer a satisfactory method of ensuring your school has sufficient funds. In times of funding constraints, cash management is crucial and this event will give you support and guidance on how to prepare a cash flow, the key elements to monitor to ensure your school meets its liabilities as they fall due and an opportunity to look at revenue recognition, providing reassurance that revenue is recognised on the correct basis. As with all Modern Governor sessions there will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and Q&A regarding those regular issues that you face whilst preparing school budgets, particularly within the current funding constraints.”

and don’t forget to browse the extensive list of upcoming Governor Live events – all free to sign up for and take part in, and open to governors, trustees and senior leadership teams.


Image credit: based on an image by Kaique RochaCC0 from pexels.com.


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