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Building Financial Resilience in a Brave New World

Funding is one, if not the hottest topic in education right now so I am very much looking forward to my first opportunity to speak at the Show, in my new role as ASCL Business Leadership Specialist, about building financial resilience in the current climate.

In light of the constant pressures faced by many in the sector, with balancing funding concerns, workload, recruitment and retention, accountability and policy changes, it would be completely understandable if for many, resilience is waning.

Change is constant. Risks are everywhere. How we measure and assess those risks is open to a certain amount of interpretation.

Take for example budget planning, where, depending on your views, your organisation may have used an uplift of 1% upwards for teachers pay for 2018/19. This would have been coupled with assumptions about whether it would be funded or unfunded, depending on your interpretation and organisations risk appetite.

Anyone from an accountancy background is taught to be prudent, the old saying plan for the worst and hope for the best – but for some there is little room left in the buffers of prudence and cashflow is tight.

Building resilience to risks, particularly on financial matters, starts with an acceptance that there is a shared responsibility in our organisations underpinned by understanding the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats to the school or multi-academy trust. There is then the need for a focus on working collectively to mitigate, reduce or eliminate the weaknesses and threats, whilst exploiting and maximising strengths and opportunities. 

It is essential that we keep sharing information and building understanding, keeping financial health and efficiency as a constant topic of conversation within the senior leadership team and in governing board meetings. Scenario planning and understanding the impact of fluctuations in income, staffing and non-staffing costs are absolutely essential in all leadership decision making.

As is assessing your organisations financial resilience and potential vulnerabilities. Rating and prioritising your risks by monitoring and maintaining a comprehensive risk register that is a working document will help you to concentrate on the highest risks which will have the widest impact.

Plan to manage, mitigate, share or avoid, it sounds like a new board game – will you stick or twist, hit the jackpot or go bust? But in all seriousness, there is more than one way to deal with a problem. Retaining perspective, ensuring that plans are as accurate and honest as possible and above all keeping it as a shared responsibility is key. 

It can be particularly challenging to be accurate when it comes to long-term planning where there are many unknown unknowns. However, there are strategies that can support you in these challenging times.

During my session at the Show I will touch on some of those strategies for financial resilience and risk assessment as well as NFF. Hopefully you will walk away with renewed sense of not being alone and little bit braver.

Hayley Dunn, ASCL Business Leadership Specialist