Curriculum-led budget planning – is it the way forward?

IRIS Curriculum led budget planning | Curriculum-led budget planning – is it the way forward?
By Toby Lester | 4th September 2019 | 8 min read

In a time where funding shortfalls and recruitment challenges are prevalent, curriculum-led budget planning (CLBP) enables schools, academies and MATs to overcome these issues by focusing on a streamlined curriculum as a priority.

Curriculum-led budget planning involves in-depth analysis of curriculum data to identify areas where efficiencies can be improved through more effective resource allocation, whilst providing a broad and balanced curriculum. This method is intended to result in increased savings and improved educational outcomes.

In a report by the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Outwood Grange Academies Trust stated that “Curriculum-led financial planning is a continuous strategic leadership process that is fundamental to an Academy’s or MAT’s success, both in hard times and times of plenty.”

How is it achieved?

For CLBP to be as effective as possible, you must have access to accurate and up-to-date data. This is essential to making strategic decisions, and to gain the insights required to make the large changes associated with this method, especially across a trust with multiple locations.

Analysis of detailed pupil attainment data provides you with an insight into the subjects which require more attention, and those which require less. As an example, by analysing the number of periods needed per subject and year group, you can decipher when teachers are available and adjust teacher allocation to resolve understaffing and overstaffing.  The size and number of classes can also be amended depending on classes where pupils are stronger or weaker, improving student performance and budget deficits.

Is curriculum-led financial planning for me?

By making data-led decisions, you can ensure your financial efficiency is improved through strategic steps and true, accurate data. Utilising this data analysis can help to maximise staff resource, driving a more efficient approach to staff recruitment and make the most of current staff resource. What’s more, by identifying students’ needs, budgeting and planning can be executed based on pupil outcomes, directly ensuring the provision of the curriculum is viable, balanced and with students’ best interest at heart.

Currently, budgets should be planned at least one-year in advance. For CLBP to be as effective as possible, planning around five-years in advance would be advantageous, as well as benchmarking. By benchmarking against other schools, you can gain vital insights into your budget spend and see where you are positioned against schools of similar size and profile.

CLBP is known to work well in large MATs, however when interfering with elements such as class sizes in smaller schools, primary schools and special schools, it is more difficult to achieve similar outcomes. With the approach mainly focused on teacher to pupil ratios, it could be less effective as it does not consider the support of teaching assistants and other staff. Finally, TES reported that a 10 per cent cut in a school’s staff last year resulted in spending of over £1 million on redundancy pay-outs, thus impeding the financial position of the school.

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