Hackney London Borough Council has 62 maintained schools: 2 nurseries; 52 primaries; 4 secondaries; 3 community special schools; 1 pupil referral unit.

In October 2020, they took up the offer of an SRMA deployment for 2 schools:

Oldhill School and Children Centre (previously called Tyssen Primary School) is a 3 to 11 mixed community school with a capacity of 420 and 350 pupils on roll (October ‘20). The school and children centre reported a cumulative deficit of £536,211 in 2019-20.

Our Lady’s High School is an 11-19 Catholic secondary school. It reported a deficit of £225,572 at the end of 2019-20.

SRMA deployment

The Council anticipated that the SRMA would provide a solid, unbiased foundation from which both schools could continue to improve the deficit recovery process that they had both started in 2019-20. They asked the SRMA to focus on strengthening both the financial and educational outcomes in the schools and to provide an independent and impartial assessment of the schools’ financial health.

Prior to deployment both schools completed a data template which the Council provided to the SRMA alongside audit reports and background information about the financial management of the schools. Due to COVID-19 all meetings were held virtually which did not affect the quality of support provided.

Outcomes following deployment

The SRMA prepared a report for each school, identifying potential recommended saving options together with a financial risk assessment. The recommendations included but were not limited to:

  • reorganising staff
  • embedding integrated curriculum and financial planning (ICFP) key performance indicators to inform the medium-term budgets to support a proactive budgeting process
  • strategies to increase funding through growing pupil numbers

Hackney reported to us their original aim “was met through the final reports issued to the schools” and that “both schools agreed with all recommendations and incorporated them in their deficit recovery plans”.

As a direct result of the visit, Oldhill School and Children Centre, which ended its financial year in March 2021 with a revenue deficit of £361,220, had a plan to eliminate the total liability by the end of March 2023. Savings identified in collaboration with the SRMA were in the region of £663k over 3 years.

Our Lady’s High School’s deficit increased in 2020-21 due to meeting the cost of redundancy payments, but the school is now on track to clear its deficit by March 2024. The total savings determined through the deployment process were approximately £880k.

Reflections on working with an SRMA

Hackney’s head of schools finance said that she would recommend the process as both a remedial and preventive measure to help secure the financial health of schools, particularly in authorities carrying surplus pupil places. She said:

“The SRMA was professional, approachable, flexible and extremely knowledgeable. We would happily have all schools reviewed using this methodology. They provided valuable independent and impartial advice to both the schools on maximising their resources”.

“Using the integrated curriculum and financial planning (ICFP) tool provided a level of transparency that enabled the schools’ leadership to fully understand what was required to make greater use of their available resources. The SRMA made recommendations to achieve long-term sustainable cost savings on the basis of her findings. The conscientious, timely and organised approach with which the SRMA conducted her work provided all parties with the confidence that the process would prove to have beneficial outcomes.”

The business manager from Our Lady’s High School commented:

“The school found the financial review very informative and useful. It was carried out in a supportive and open manner that encouraged our full cooperation and involvement and the discussions that took place helped inform our decision making. We now have a shared understanding reached through genuine collaboration, and the tools and data we now have at our command will be a central part of initiating, monitoring, and completing our deficit reduction process”.

Oldhill School and Children Centre’s new business manager said:

“ We conducted initial assessments which highlighted areas of need.  These were confirmed through the exercise with the LA, the DfE and the SRMA.  It enabled us to understand the importance of having a range of support systems and networks and provided us with various perspectives on the budget both in terms of the curriculum and non-curriculum elements.”

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    Two Hackney schools set to save £1.5 million over 3 years

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