Every school has budgeting challenges that they must navigate.

Just a few of the many financial pressures currently troubling school budgets include rising teachers’ salaries, pay award increases, and the growing costs of SEN support.

With no real signs of financial pressures abating, governors, head teachers and CFOs often find themselves making tricky decisions on how best to drive up standards in their schools, given an increasingly restrictive budget.

So, where to best invest in teaching staff, resources and equipment, given your available finances?

Curriculum-Led Financial Planning (CLFP), advocated by the Department for Education (DfE), has quickly become recognised best practice for improving financial efficiency and control in schools - whilst finding value in your funding to improve pupils’ success.

It is now extremely beneficial for schools to understand how to best implement CLFP – especially with the DfE making a requirement for recipients of the Multi-Academy Trust Development Improvement Fund (MDIF).

Understanding CLFP

Although it is ideal to begin your CLFP before the start of the academic year, CLFP should be seen as a three to five-year strategic commitment.

CLFP brings together the formal budgeting/costing process with your curriculum planning to give you the tools to make informed, mutually business decisions between these two areas.

CLFP assesses your educational vision and pupils’ needs, and then ascertains whether the planned curriculum is affordable, considering how teachers and periods are deployed, as well as the cost of your other resources.

Rather than the Finance Department simply being given a staffing structure and curriculum plan – and trying to cut costs on contracts and support staff to fund the curriculum – CLFP strategically ensures that the planned curriculum is affordable and fit for purpose for your school.

Through calculating key metrics, you interchange your desired curriculum with available finances. You can run this analysis this by using an online CLFP tool.

Getting started – reviewing and asking key questions

To ensure CLFP is as effective as possible, there are key starting points.

First, gather up-to-date data on your teaching and non-teaching costs – i.e. your financial plan/budget. Gather together your curriculum plan, and all the data you have on the amount of teaching staff/time it’s currently taking you to deliver your curriculum.

Involve all of your curriculum and financial planning personnel – including your governors, finance officers, business managers and curriculum directors. CLFP is a whole team effort, where discussion is needed to refine your plans together.

Second, collaboratively review current/last year’s curriculum and financial data. Ask questions like:

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  • Was last year’s resourcing sufficient to meet our pupils’ needs?
  • How much did we spend on staff and resources?
  • Did we advance our curriculum, or simply roll forward the previous year’s?
  • What is our current class size, pupil-teacher ratio, teacher-contact ratio, curriculum bonus, and cost per lesson?
  • What challenges did we face?

Then, ask questions around your ‘educational vision’ to inform future planning. This should include:

  • What is our vision for the school over the next three to five years?
  • What sort of curriculum do we want to provide to pupils?
  • What resources do pupils in each year group need?
  • Is our curriculum up to date and mapped to current agendas?
  • Is there anywhere we can be more efficient? Consider non-teaching staff, materials, events, and other capital projects.
  • Are we prepared to make difficult decisions to achieve this vision?

Also, don’t overlook:

  • The available funding you have for supporting SEN pupils.
  • Factoring in potential staffing challenges, and other unexpected / miscellaneous costs into your budget i.e. pay protection.
  • Researching upcoming changes to educational policy, funding and expected increases/decreases in pupil numbers.

Applying metrics

Once you’ve answered the above, you should know what your desired curriculum looks like.

Now, assess whether the curriculum is affordable and sustainable, by running an analysis that measures and benchmarks key metrics.

The key metrics you should look to apply are:

  • Curriculum bonus
  • Teacher-contact ratio
  • Cost per lesson.

What do these metrics give you? By analysing these metrics, and changing them via certain variables, you can figure out:

  • Where teachers’ time is being spent, and how much time is spent teaching lessons
  • If you’re fully utilising your teachers and how to make best use of their time
  • If you have too few, or too many, teachers to efficiently staff your desired curriculum
  • How to achieve your targeted teaching group and contact ratios
  • Where to create savings, and invest in other areas to impact student experience
  • How to account for other non-staffing costs
  • How you stack-up against DfE benchmarks.

You will need to frequently alter these metrics to achieve your ideal plan.

How to improve your CLFP – use an online CLFP Tool

A number of resources are available for schools to improve their CLFP – including the guides provided by the DfE.

However, you need not look any further than the online CLFP tool developed by Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) and The Skills Network.

This new online tool, created by one of the UK’s leading MATs, helps secondary schools and MATs make conscious choices on where to spend and save. The software covers:

  • Curriculum and subject modelling tools
  • Staff deployment analysis
  • In-built CLFP training
  • Workforce planning tools
  • Staff utilisation ‘health checks’
  • Benchmarks for nationally recognised standards
  • Curriculum bonus, teacher-contact ratio and cost per lesson analysis
  • MAT group overview function – see all your schools’ staffing and financial data.

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