Value For Money Statement
knowledge is structured in consciousness
IN THIS SECTION
Review of Value for Money
As Accounting Officer, the Principal has responsibility for ensuring that the academy trust delivers good value in the use of public resources. The Accounting Officer is aware of the guidance in the Academies Accounts Direction 2020-21 regarding value for money statements published by the Education Funding Standards Agency and understands that value for money refers to the educational and wider societal outcomes achieved in return for the taxpayer resources received. The Accounting Officer has set out below how she has ensured that the academy trust’s use of its resources has provided good value for money during the academic year.
Maharishi School 2020-21 Value for Money statement
This statement is to show that Maharishi School Trust’s use of public assets and funds has provided good value for money during the year, and to identify any opportunities for potential improvement, particularly in respect of the following:
- the economic, efficient and effective use of all the resources, for example to produce better educational results;
- the avoidance of waste and extravagance;
- the prudent and economical administration of the organisation;
- the establishment and maintenance of a system of financial governance, (including sound internal spending controls, keeping up-to-date financial records, continuous financial monitoring and timely reporting); and
- ensuring all financial transactions represent value for money.
Maharishi School Trust opened as a Free School in September 2011 with a capital cost to the Department for Education of under £1million, compared to the average premises cost of setting up a Free School published by the National Audit Office of £6.6million. The school was originally conceived on the basis of 15 pupils per class but, due to high levels of demand, we have increased class sizes to 18 by stages, and are considering increasing this to 20 pupils per class. The fact of smaller class sizes ensures that teachers can devote more time to individual pupils and their particular requirements. Maharishi School Trust, in keeping with the requirements of its Funding Agreement with the Department for Education, has all the relevant policies and procedures in place to ensure that the Trust is properly run and provides value for money.
All matters relating to finance are referred to the Finance Committee, which is acutely aware of the Trust’s limited budget and the pressures on it. They have actively questioned expenditure proposals, challenged variances, advised on strategy and expressed their reporting requirements. When satisfied, the Finance Committee have then made appropriate recommendations to the Governing Body. Also, as required, the school has the function of an internal audit in the form of an Internal Audit Committee, as allowed due to the Trusts’ size. As required in the Academies Financial Handbook, the Headteacher, as Accounting Officer is part of this committee. Maharishi School continues to utilise an independent Responsible Officer, who reviews the financial operations, compliance and risks, including the Risk Register and the school’s risk management proposals, etcetera on a termly basis. Maharishi School’s Responsible Officer is a former chartered accountant, whose termly reports inform the deliberations of the Audit Committee and are submitted to the Governing Body. These bodies are subject to their own Terms of Reference/ Roles and Responsibilities documents and the Finance Committee routinely meets every other month and the Internal Audit every term. Finance meetings take place ten days before Governors’ meetings to ensure that the data and topics under discussion are still current. The meeting schedule is designed to accommodate the production of Quarterly finance reports in order that matters are reported and acted upon in a timely manner. Members of the Governing Body are mostly parents of current or past pupils of the school. The Chair of the Governing Body is a former Chief Executive and Director of Children’s Services of a London borough.
Maharishi School Trust has been audited by the EFSA who have expressed their satisfaction with the financial management and governance of the Trust, including the requisite policies and procedures. These include:
- Draft internal financial regulations: these ensure that the school maintains and develops systems of financial control which conform with the requirements both of propriety and of good financial management.
- Headteacher and Governing Body responsibilities: this document details the levels of decision making for all aspects of the school.
- Delegated authority table: this details the levels of authority for and conditions pertaining to expenditure amounts.
- Continuity plans for each and both school sites: these provide all the information needed to ensure the fastest possible disaster recovery of school operations.
- Risk Register: this lists all perceived potential risks to the school, level of risk and control procedures. Register updates are a Governing Body standing agenda item.
- Whistleblowing policy: this is intended to enable individuals to raise concerns about general malpractice, abuse or wrongdoing at an early stage and in the right way, without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage. The policy is designed to encourage and enable individuals to raise concerns within the school or, if necessary, externally rather than to overlook a problem. (This enables any member of staff, pupil, parent or member of the public to notify the relevant authority of suspected wrongdoing and ensures investigations are conducted, and if necessary acted upon, impartially and objectively.)
Since the conversion to a Free School the Maharishi School Trust Governing Body has usually approved a balanced budget with a small GAG funding carry forward within recommended limits. The outturn figure for 2020/21 is better than that budgeted at [-£39,140 (Deficit)] until the pension deficit increase of [£108,000], which is outside the school’s control, is applied. Maharishi School holds a healthy balance of reserves, which has comfortably covered any past shortfalls. The Trust has submitted statutory financial reports, including Audited Accounts, ESFA Accounts Return and ESFA Budget Forecast Return and BFR Outturns which have satisfied the ESFA Auditors (Deloitte). The Trust has routinely compared its financial performance with the Kreston (chartered accountants) Academies Benchmark Reports and the Department for Education/Education and Skills Funding Agency Benchmarking systems. In the last two years this has been the online benchmarking tool, using three different criteria. (see Key Performance Indicators, page 9). We are satisfied with our performance compared to Academy Trusts generally, many of which have struggled financially in recent years, despite the diseconomies of scale due to our smaller class sizes and resultant per class funding, especially staff pupil ratio.
This demonstrates a high level of responsibility in the use of the Trust’s funds. The Trust makes every effort to gain the maximum value in procurement of services and products. We are confident the Trust does very well at obtaining good value overall in procurement due to the ongoing review of suppliers and their prices by the finance and admin teams. This has included joining the DfE RPA school insurance scheme in September 2019, which represented a further saving for the school. In terms of the educational and societal outcomes of Maharishi School we can demonstrate that the resources expended are offering exceptional value for money.
Maharishi School was inspected by Ofsted in November 2017 resulting in a “Good” report overall with Outstanding in Personal Development and Welfare. The school is pleased with the report, but is not complacent and is already acting on the advice for areas to be developed. This has included extending the Reception class’ enclosed play area, completely resurfacing the whole area and installing outdoor play equipment. Awnings for the Reception area and other ground floor classrooms have been installed during the year in question.
Development of full potential is nurtured at Maharishi School, as indicated by other pupil achievements. In addition to statutory testing Maharishi School utilises standardised ability, attainment, and attitude testing to regularly monitor pupil abilities and social development. Extracurricular activities are encouraged and facilitated, including the Duke of Edinburgh award. This introduction has been assisted by the school fundraising group, who also assist, for example, in school trip funding, which allows us to offer a full range of educational visits across the whole school, including residential and foreign trips. Other after-hours offerings during the year included Photography GCSE.
Staff recruitment and deployment has been undertaken with care (using the practices recommended by ‘Safer Recruitment’), and is regularly reviewed, to obtain the most beneficial outcomes for pupils. This has been particularly the case in the Primary phase which underwent planned expansion following becoming a Free School. Here, the allocation of teaching assistants and subject specialists reflects the specific requirements of classes as a whole and of individual pupils, including those requiring degrees of one-to-one support. As planned, the school now provides more targeted, specific literacy and numeracy support in both phases. During the last year there has been staff recruitment in both phases following staff emigration to further enhance the school’s offering.
Maharishi School Trust started as a Free School with a good track record in both educational and pastoral provision and financial management, and continues that ethos to the present. We always proactively seek the best value in the use of our funds and will continue to refine our approach to improve on past performance. The development of our pupils is of paramount importance to us and we will continue to do whatever we can to maximise the value to them of our funding.