Securing Our Future - an executive summary

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Securing our future: using our resources well

This DCSF document is a discussion paper which consults on the use of resources in schools. In the light of the recession and the impact on school budgets from 2011, it prepares the way through giving schools some advance warning of what to expect and a say in the consultation process. As with all DCSF consultations it gives little scope for truly divergent thinking with relatively closed questions around specific areas.

There are specific themes to the consultation that can also be identified in other material coming from the DCSF:

  • The development of federations and partnership working between schools
  • The use of collective buying power
  • A further clamp down on schools who squirrel money
  • Benchmarking and the spreading of best practice

The overall message is that schools must work together more as all the requirements on them cannot be achieved by individual schools. The consultation is arranged under three headings:

  • Procurement and technology
  • Resource use and financial management
  • Partnership and shared services

Procurement and technology

Here the benefits of collective buying are emphasized including:

  • ICT procurement
  • Facilities management
  • Energy contracts
  • The use of supply agencies
  • Photocopier contracts

School finance managers are encouraged to use the DCSF OPEN online procurement platform and the new School Recruitment Service. It is recommended that better use is made of new technology to improve outcomes and that schools concentrate more on saving energy.

Questions in this section include:

  • How can schools best be encouraged and supported to improve their procurement for example through collaborative buying to achieve savings? How can the use of electronic purchasing systems such as OPEN be increased?
  • Are there further examples of how schools can use technology more effectively for the benefit of their pupils or their own administrative efficiency and what practical steps are necessary to share this best practice and increase the benefits from better use of technology?
  • Energy saving, reduces costs while also reducing carbon usage. How can schools learn from best practice in realising energy efficiencies?

Resource use and financial management

The work of school business managers is endorsed in this section and schools continue to be encouraged to either appoint one or share one with another school.

Concern is raised about the amount of money that schools continue to keep in contingency and the implication is that local authorities are not holding schools sufficiently to account for this.

School Improvement Partners are to have an enhanced role as brokers between schools and providers of services. They will also be expected to take a higher profile in discussions about how schools spend their budgets.

Questions in this section include:

  • Schools need good internal financial management skills or the ability to share them with other schools. How best can schools access the skills they need?
  • The White Paper places an emphasis on schools, either individually or in groups, appointing school business managers (SBM) and the National College has an energetic training programme for them. Does anything more need to be done to enhance the supply of good managers?
  • Many schools use benchmarking as a way of checking their performance and supporting their business planning. Is there scope for a wider application of benchmarking techniques and are the available tools as helpful as they can be?
  • Should local authorities be more active in recycling excess school balances to support their schools?
  • How can SIPs be most effective in helping schools make better use of resources?

Partnerships and shared services

This section of the consultation focuses around the opportunities presented by Federations. The White Paper ‘Your child, your schools our future’ commits to greater partnership working including:

  • A new requirement for a Governing Body to consider shared leadership and governance before replacing a Headteacher
  • A National College programme to develop Leadership Models and Partnership Support
  • New guidance for schools about pooling funds
  • SIPs supporting all schools in formal partnerships with shared leadership/ governance

Questions in this section include:

  • How can schools be encouraged to collaborate and share services so as to cut their costs and improve outcomes for pupils?
  • What additional help do schools need to support and facilitate shared services and the creation of federations?

The consultation can be accessed from: http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk

For further information on OPEN online www.dcsf.gov.uk/open
For further information on the School Recruitment Service  www.schoolsrecruitment.dcsf.gov.uk

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