Keystone Academy Trust, which was established in September 2019 to support the growth and development of primary education across south Lincolnshire, has appointed IMP Software who specialises in supporting centralised MAT finance at all levels.
The Trust, which has evolved from three schools to five schools in the past 12 months with more likely to be added before the end of this year, was seeking MAT-wide budgeting and financial management processes. “When I was School Business Manager at Bourne Westfield Primary Academy, I would use Excel spreadsheets to manage finance, which worked fine,” said Samantha Taylor, the Trust’s Chief Financial Officer. “However, with my Trust role, it soon became clear that spreadsheets did not work for operating across a number of schools. If we made a change in one school spreadsheet, we had to make a change in others too, and then when we added in staff in different schools to our Excel spreadsheets this created further complexity. What we needed to have was an overall MAT budget view: to see everything in one place, and a budget set that was cloud-based.”
IMP came highly recommended
Samantha sought recommendations in The FD Forum, a self-help group to support academy finance directors exchange information relating to their roles and best practice, and it was here that she found out about IMP Software. “IMP Planner was very positively received by people, in fact there was nothing negative, and I cannot praise it enough,” she revealed. “It is all set up and we are using it for our 2021-22 budget. With IMP you get that top level MAT budget or you can pull back down to schools. I have been sharing and discussing reports from IMP with Heads – they understand the presentation, even as non-financial professionals. We have also imported our Sage management accounts into the system, which will be used in real time from September, and then we will add all future new schools straight into the system. As the MAT grows all our efforts are moving towards automation, including forecasting, so having IMP software supporting centralised MAT finance like this will make life much easier.”
The Trust says that “of fundamental importance is ensuring a solid and secure financial future to allow schools to teach without compromise”. Under Samantha’s leadership, and supported by CEO Elaine Radley, centralised financial policies and procedures as well as MAT-wide purchasing have already benefited member schools. School leadership teams receive support on all aspects of finance, including the internal and external audit processes, and adherence to the Department for Education’s Academies Finance Handbook. Effective MAT budgeting and financial software is therefore a must, Samantha said.
IMP Software allows you to focus on what’s important
“I want to spend most of my time adding value to the MAT – that means undertaking value added projects and not spending time number crunching or processing information,” Samantha explained. “It means I can reduce my hours spent on that, and spend more on MAT strategy. IMP Planner is so intuitive at each stage, and this is really important as in my role it is just me. It evolves with the current and future needs of MATs and provides much needed flexibility within an ever-changing policy landscape. For Keystone, IMP will support any expansion and it is something for the future, not just now. It is clear that IMP Planner will be excellent value for money.”
Samantha added that, with the system now implemented, the IMP support team was proving “really responsive” to ongoing queries. “I am able to phone in to speak to a real person or use the web chat, which I prefer. Both the chat and level of support has been fantastic. It is immediate, and only last week when I asked a question I heard back straight away and a call was booked. Through IMP Voice there is also an opportunity to suggest improvements to the system, for example around functionality, which are then taken forward,” she said.
IMP Software co-founder Will Jordan said: “We work with MATs all over the country, small and large, and it is great to be supporting a relatively new Trust with a clear approach to offering high-quality comprehensive provision of financial services to all schools within the Trust.”