The MAT Finance Awards 2021 winners revealed

The winners of the inaugural MAT Finance Awards have been announced by IMP Software, specialists in the provision of Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) budgeting and financial management software, which is in use within over 120 Trusts.

The awards were launched in September to provide a unique platform for MAT finance professionals to celebrate their hard work, share best practice and showcase their impact across six categories. Following the 29th November submission deadline, the winners were officially unveiled on The MAT Finance Awards’ social media platforms on 15th December.

An expert judging panel – comprising Confederation of School Trusts CEO Leora Cruddas, Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) CEO Stephen Morales, Dartmoor MAT CEO Dan Morrow, L.E.A.D Academy Trust Deputy CEO Bobby Thandi, Bishop Fleming Audit Partner and Head of Education Pam Tuckett, and IMP Software Co-Founder Will Jordan – reviewed nearly 100 nominations received.

The judging panel also chose the individual recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to MAT Finance award: Micon Metcalfe, CFO at The Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust.

IMP Software Co-Founder Will Jordan said: “It is exactly 12 months ago that we first had the idea to set up The MAT Finance Awards given the gap we perceived for MAT finance leaders, teams and wider Trust champions to be recognised and rewarded through such an awards scheme. We wanted individuals and teams to come forward with their nominations for our six award categories, and to hear from both unsung heroes as well as leading lights in the sector.

We have been overwhelmed by the response and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for submitting such fantastic nominations, engaging with this project and helping to shine a light on the great work that is taking place within the sector. The judging process has been a really tough challenge, reviewing nearly 100 nominations and picking winners for each category, from a truly inspirational set of entries. Congratulations to all the winners, and all those highly commended runners up. Given the number of worthy nominations received, being shortlisted was also a terrific achievement.”

The MAT Finance Awards 2021 winners:

MAT Finance Leader of the Year
To recognise outstanding CFOs, or equivalent, in a MAT for their leadership and management of MAT finances.

Winner
Judy Brinson, Director of Business and Finance, Truro & Penwith Academy Trust

Judges’ comments:
“Judy Brinson was nominated for this award due to her outstanding commitment to the highest quality financial management of a Trust meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families in rural and coastal communities. The submission outlined how Judy has overcome monumental challenges for schools and their budgets to ensure the Trust has a healthy reserve, good financial security and budget plans for the future sustainability of the smallest schools. The range and scope of impact achieved under Judy’s leadership is truly inspirational. It has provided the Trust with strategic insight and impactful actions that have helped safeguard the provision and futures for children, as well as taking the agenda forward for the Trust and wider region. In her approach Judy exemplifies the Nolan principles, the basis of ethical standards expected of public office holders, and genuine system leadership to build a collaborative and self-improving sector which improves the life chances for all those served.”

Highly Commended runner-up
Helen Anderson, Director of Finance, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust

MAT Finance Team of the Year
To recognise exceptional MAT finance teams, large or small, who go above and beyond in ensuring the smooth running and effective operations of MAT finance.

Winner
Boudica Schools Trust

Judges’ comments:
“The finance team at Boudica Schools Trust were nominated for this award for their individual and collective outstanding contribution – and dedication – to the Trust, schools and the wider sector which goes above and beyond what would be expected. Outstanding features of this entry included a saving of £85,000 over three years by reviewing maths software provision across all the Trust’s primary schools, helping another local Trust implement their new finance system by sharing their knowledge and experience of setting the system up, and leading the way nationally on implementing e-invoicing. Also of note was being amongst the first to make use of the automatic uploads on the Annual Accounts Return (AAR) and a report from consultants specialising in procurement who were unable to identify any savings across a number of areas of non-pay, highlighting the diligence with which the finance team have consistently achieved the best value for money.”

Highly Commended runner-up
Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust

MAT Finance Champion of the Year
To recognise inspirational MAT leaders – CEOs and Trustees/governors – who at a strategic level champion innovative practice around MAT finance and/or who motivate and inspire the core team to achieve success through effective leadership.

Winner
David Clayton, Chief Executive, Consilium Academies

Judges’ comments:
“David Clayton was nominated for this award for his tireless work in ensuring all students within Consilium Academies have access to an equitable education. As part of this, he has championed the adoption of GAG pooling within the Trust, which helps drive value of equity across the Trust. Through his hard work, all members of the finance team (and wider teams) work with the values of equity and integrity at the forefront of everything they do. David is clearly an exceptional role model with a deep understanding of finance underpinned by his background as a Chartered Accountant. He has a keen eye for detail to ensure maximum resource makes its way into the schools and into classrooms, while always achieving value for money. The finance team feel empowered to suggest new methods, come up with new ideas that may help to streamline processes and make life easier for school-based staff.”

MAT Finance Rising Star of the Year
To recognise younger MAT finance team members, aged 30 or under (as of 31/8/21), who have demonstrated excellence in their role.

Winner
Saffron Buckfield, Finance Apprentice, Leigh Academies Trust

Judges’ comments:
“Saffron Buckfield began her role at Leigh Academies Trust as a finance apprentice in October 2020 and she was nominated for this award for her achievements which have spectacularly exceeded expectations and have led to a permanent contract. Described as indispensable, great under pressure and extremely resilient, Saffron introduced new systems and processes for capturing costs associated with the Covid-19 testing of students across 15 secondary academies which enabled leaders to manage testing budgets and for the CFO to present reports to the Trust Board. She also quickly became an expert user of the PS Financials accounting system, and now effectively ‘owns’ the whole purchase ledger process, as well as making numerous other contributions to the Trust. Overall, it was absolutely wonderful to read about Saffron’s success as an apprentice. This is just the sort of thing that Trusts should be doing – recognising and valuing talented young people.”

MAT Finance Project of the Year
To recognise innovative MAT finance projects which have had a direct impact on the financial operations of the Trust.

Winner
Trust-Wide Finance and Operating Model Transformation, led by Alex Duffety, Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust

Judges’ comments:
“In January 2021 DEMAT rolled out its new financial operating model across all locations. This was the culmination of a finance and operating model transformation project, which began in Autumn 2019, was delayed slightly due to the pandemic and realised the Trust’s vision of a more aligned, sustained and strategic finance function. The new operating model includes localised hubs, centralised and outsourced invoice processing, revised financial reporting and a centre of expertise for compliance and reporting. Successfully delivering the project has allowed the Trust to benefit from immediate operational improvements in financial reporting, consistency and decision-making, but also provided a sustainable platform for the Board to make critical strategic decisions about its future. What is particularly impressive about this project is the complete restructure from a decentralised model to a three-hub model, using existing staff, and the extensive range of benefits. The new model is 25% less expensive allowing a needs-led redeployment of resource into teaching and educational improvements.”

Highly Commended runners-up
The New Way Forward, led by Mark Guest and Alexa Rendell, PolyMAT
Electronic Procure to Pay, led by James Rant, Red Kite Learning Trust

MAT Finance Education or Community Impact of the Year
To recognise innovative MAT finance projects which have had a wider impact on education or the wider community.

Winner
Supporting Our Networks, led by Sue Prickett, SENDAT

Judges’ comments:
“This nomination highlighted how, during the first lockdown and after RAG-rating all staff and learners for various SEND categories, the Trust CEO and finance team physically supported sourcing supplies and packing boxes filled with welfare items, food and learning resources. These went out to all pupil premium grant children and other identified families in the Trust as well as another large local school for Severe Learning Difficulties/Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. The team co-ordinated drops using the local authority minibus drivers who would usually transport the children. This showed huge initiative to deliver food parcels before Edenred’s scheme was put in place. Supporting the most disadvantaged, and putting children first, is at the heart of this submission. Other examples including working throughout the 2020 Christmas holidays to plan the rollout of onsite testing in SENDAT schools with guidance that had not been streamlined to be SEND specific, and establishing its own quality assurance so staff and families were secure in knowing they were entering safe spaces.”

Outstanding Contribution to MAT Finance

Winner
Micon Metcalfe, Chief Financial Officer, The Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust

Judges’ comments:
“Micon Metcalfe is a vastly experienced education executive leader with extensive knowledge of business support and operations. She is also an experienced Chief Financial Officer, a DfE accredited School Resource Management Adviser and a Fellow of the Institute of School Business Leadership. In recent times, Micon has used her expertise to the benefit of three MATs (also United Learning and Inspiration Trust) in both financial and operations leadership roles. She is also experienced in change management and is interested in how school business professionals can contribute to the changing educational landscape. As a leading respected figure within the education finance area, Micon is a worthy recipient of this Outstanding Contribution award for promoting and championing the profession. Her technical knowledge (including around Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning) is exemplary and she is always the voice of reason when it comes to providing no-nonsense commentary on wider education/MAT funding or topical discussions.”

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