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Change of direction - Education Sector?

Applied on a whim, got a new job,

Didn't find your answer?

I have worked in manufacturing for most of my career. My daughter is secondary school age, and I saw a vacancy in the school newsletter.

From September 1st, I will be in charge of finances for a multi academy trust.

Anyone on here working in education finance?


Replies (12)

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paddle steamer
26th Jun 2021 10:15

Afraid not, closest I got to education was as treasurer of a charity that operated an after school and breakfast club from the school, our dealings with the school were never particularly friction free.

All I know about school management is indirectly via my other half as she is an administrative assistant/classroom assistant at a local secondary, from my vantage point they all seem to love meetings, none of the meetings appear to run to any reasonable timeframe (they cannot do concise) and she perpetually returns very late from work when she attends them to take minutes:- I have suggested to her she gives the headteacher an egg timer and nobody gets to continue speaking after the sand runs out.

State education via our Council certainly seems to have a poor record on VFM, up here PFI is a bit of a scandal as are other contracts they execute, apparently by part way through the academic year they cannot afford to keep using their photocopiers; when I suggested to my wife that actually purchasing a secondhand one rather than leasing one might work out much cheaper (it does for my office) I was advised that could not be done, entrenched positions are everywhere.

No idea how your Trusts work, how commercial they are re procurement and how organised they are re their day to day management, but everything I hear about schools suggests they are one of the last closed shops where resistance to change is endemic, it would likely be the sort of work environment where I would be sent home day one for challenging behaviour so good luck, you may need the patience of a saint.

Edit- once you have been in post a little try doing a meeting costing exercise, calculate how much the hour/two hours costs re staff wages, NIER and pensions for all those sitting round the table, once you then have a cost rate per minute compare it with the value of the amounts various agenda items are dealing with, I bet within a few weeks you will find a fair few agenda items where the cost of the time expended on it at the meeting is greater than the sum being debated at the meeting.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By tom123
26th Jun 2021 10:41

I, as it happens, am also chair of governors of another school - so I am with you on the meetings thing..

Going to be an interesting role, and I just squeak in before I turn 50 in the autumn..

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
26th Jun 2021 12:01

Come on Tom, you'll have to tell us more about this change of course.

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Replying to Red Leader:
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By tom123
26th Jun 2021 13:55

Happy to, in due course.
At the moment it hasn't really sunk in.

For those that don't know, education sector is a bit wierd, in that you have a day of interviews (in my case 4) and they make an offer at the end of the day.

No agencies involved - yay..

So, two weeks from filling in a form to a job offer..

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By fawltybasil2575
26th Jun 2021 13:37

@ Tom.

As a school governor, you will (so I understand) have received no pay for that work, which is a considerable credit to you (I surmise that, as the chair, you have carried out that work for several years).

That governor role will itself have included ensuring the overall control of school finances, and this will have held you no doubt in good stead when you applied for your new position. To that extent, you have been (very rightly) rewarded for your years of voluntary work, in a manner which I am sure you did not envisage when you decided to be a school governor. So perhaps there is some justice in this world after all:)

I am sure that you will find the new role both enjoyable and challenging; and you have been very brave in making that decision, especially (if I may say so) around 30 years into a “normal” working life.

I suspect that you will be spending material time in the next two months in researching your new duties.

May I wish you every success and happiness in your new role.


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By Paul Crowley
26th Jun 2021 16:18

There is no obvious connection from prior to current job
Good luck figuring it out
The big issue is trying to get extra income without paying out more than the income in extra costs.
Your serious advantage was chair of governing body. as such you were light years ahead of the other candidates
Spoken as a chair of finance subcommittee, in the past, on 2 schools

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By Hugo Fair
26th Jun 2021 17:17

First, good luck ... and hope you enjoy the challenges.

We have a fairly substantial number of clients in the Education sector (nearly all however within F.E.) - and in my experience they love to network (i.e. exchange experiences and lessons learned with each other) ... at least they did pre-covid!

There are formal Associations that (again pre-covid) ran conferences, workshops, etc - which were often found to be more useful than you might expect.
But it's the informal groups (typically related geographically) that seem to really offer support when the going gets tough or you need a sounding-board.

It's obviously early days, and you'll want to scope your new patch (and meet the team and find the hidden bodies) before working out plans and priorities to tackle ... but when you're ready, feel free to DM me (with an indication as to location of the MAT) and I'll happily see if there are suitable FDs who'll allow me to effect introductions.

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By the_drookit_dug
26th Jun 2021 20:08

Enjoy the ISBA conferences!

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By paul.benny
26th Jun 2021 20:32

Yes, good luck, Tom

I anticipate a flurry of questions as you try to get to grips with the peculiarities of the accounting.

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By In a Daze
27th Jun 2021 11:54

First, good luck. I had a brief encounter for around 6 months in education many years ago.

Whatever you do don’t mention the word profit even if it relates to the school canteen. I made this mistake and had daggers from the whole office.

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By adf2410
27th Jun 2021 23:21

Yep. Recently ex FE college CFO, with some experience of MATs, and now working for the regulator/funder (sort of). I wonder if I know Hugo Fair!

PM me if you want a chat. Education is so much fun!

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By Cathro
01st Jul 2021 11:19

Not working in education finance but as Chair of the Finance and Audit committee for our local high school academy I spend an awful lot of my free time working with the Academy CFO and Accounting Officer. This time last year we were recruiting a new CFO/School Business Manager (the existing one was retiring after more than 20 years in the job) the CV's of those applying were a revelation - not a single accountant amongst them, most seemed to be ex-teachers that liked working in schools but didn't like interacting with the students!
As a Chair of Governors I'm sure you'll already know all the pitfalls of school finances but my inputs as someone who has spent 10 years on the receiving end of financial reports from the school and 5 years as Chair of Finance I'd say the crucial things to nail are:
1) formatting of reports to make them easy to read and understand - I have spent hours of my time taking reports from their accounts system and applying some basic formatting in excel to make them readable.
2) phasing of budgets so that when you have variances in the monthly accounts you can look for real reasons behind those variances rather than just timing differences - for years our school just divided their annual budget by 12 despite many things being paid quarterly or in the case of lots of grants in a tranche of 7/12ths then 5/12ths
Things that are probably going to keep you awake at night from now on:
1) cashflow - not least because so much funding in schools is lagged so increases in numbers of pupils means teaching them for a year before you start to get any of the money to pay for that teaching.
2) 3 and 5 years forecasts where you can see staff costs rising ever upwards year on year as your teachers merrily progress up the pay scales whilst your income barely moves upwards because whatever the government gives to schools in its budget headlines it takes away quietly from other grants leaving you no better off.
Things that will help you stay sane:
1) Hopefully having a Chair of Finance that supports you and who you wont be afraid to run things past.
2) Online forums of other school business managers and better still if you have one locally, an alliance of local school business managers - We have one around here where 7 or 8 high schools link up so the SBM's meet every few weeks and discuss budgets, energy (and other) contract suppliers, latest Department of Education diktats etc.
Good Luck and I hope you enjoy the new challenges ahead!

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