The Cornerstone Multi-Academy Trust (TCAT) in East Devon is a forward-looking, agile MAT where like-minded schools collaborate and develop in a supportive local learning environment with distinctive, extended curriculum opportunities.
Broadclyst Community Primary School, which became one of the first academies in the UK in 2010, was the first school in the Trust, followed by Westclyst Community Primary School in September 2016 and Yeo Valley Primary School in 2019. TCAT is also opening Monkerton Community Primary School in September 2020.
Also part of the Trust is the Cornerstone Teaching School which provides teacher training, professional learning, leadership development and school-to-school support at both primary and secondary levels. Overseeing the financial side of the MAT is Trust Business Manager Graham Newbery, who has co-ordinated the relationship with IMP Software (via Co-Founder Will Jordan) and the implementation of IMP Planner at the start of the 2019-20 academic year.
“We have been a small, fully centralised Trust since our inception, which was not a deliberate decision at the time but has evolved to us now pooling our General Annual Grant and applying it to whatever is needed across the MAT,” Graham said. “We have used three other budgeting software platforms previously, each going some way to provide the budgeting software we wanted, but the systems did not totally meet our requirements. Will, as a former Trustee of ours, alerted us to IMP Planner at the appropriate time and actually ran an initial version past us when it was in its infancy and he was developing the platform. At that stage we were able to input into the software and suggest some changes and, once these were made, we went with it.”
The specific challenge for TCAT was around staffing costs, Graham explained and integrating its own pay spines into previous MAT budgeting software. “The support from the very beginning was absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Will took our internal budgeting spreadsheet and transposed it into IMP Planner initially, giving us a fully working system as a starting point to get going with, and the opportunity to build from there. We used to have to do separate Excel budget sheets, including complicated, time-consuming and at risk of human error staffing budgets, but now IMP is the backbone. From the initial training sessions which were run on-site, to where we are today, we have been well supported.”
Graham also revealed that the Trust, which currently has 1,050 pupils on its roll, has been given the opportunity to influence the direction of IMP Planner throughout the course of this first year, thus bringing further benefits. He said: “What I really like is the way IMP Software adapt, alter and improve aspects, and involve customers in the process. For example, I was part of a webinar and had the opportunity to vote on a number of potential improvements; two of these were implemented within a week. I am thrilled with the support received – it is exactly what we need – and it has had an immediate impact.”
Given its “immediate impact”, Graham has no hesitation in recommending IMP Software to other MAT business and finance leaders. “There is no doubt, 100%, that IMP Planner will make a difference to our efficiencies in the long-term,” he said. “It is already saving me time, simply because it removes the chance for human error, and over time it will help us to save money too. Will’s accountancy background and experience in the education sector is what makes the software different – he knows how it feels to be in my position, and therefore the offering reflects that. IMP Planner is designed specifically for centralised MATs like ourselves. On this basis, I have recommended it to a larger MAT in the Newton Abbott area and given them a demonstration myself, and would do so again.”
Graham added: “IMP Software has started small, providing outstanding support from the off, and are now a growing business without stretching themselves too far. The recent period of lockdown has given me the space to spend the whole day using IMP Planner and really appreciate just how much difference it can make to us as a Trust. I have had the headspace to drill down and develop clearer budgeting plans, building these with reliable and efficient financials. And, of course, I have been able to do so because I can use IMP anywhere.”
Case study developed: May 2020