Logo - The Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust

The Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust

The Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust was created in January 2018 when 16 Secondary and Primary Schools in Devon, came together, encompassing the values of both the Cooperative movement and the Church of England. From the outset a collaborative approach was of high importance, with a fully centralised central team created to provide a professional Finance, HR and Estates service that would provide a first-class service to all of the schools.

With such a mix of rural schools and several of the Primaries having less than 100 pupils, there is a constant challenge to ensure that all schools have sufficient staffing and resources to provide the best possible education.

Susanne Kiff the Trust’s Chief Finance and Operations Officer has overseen the Finance and Operations from day one and is very hands-on in her role. As a newly established MAT with so many small schools, the budgets are very tight, so Susanne takes on much of the budget review work herself.

The Challenge

The budgeting system previously used within the Dartmoor MAT is widely used across the sector, and whilst it has a strong history with both maintained schools and standalone academies, Susanne was not finding it easy to use within a centralised MAT, due to the limited reporting and multiple databases. Susanne explained “It just wasn’t working for us; the MAT reporting was non-existent.

I was forced to either rely on the Trust’s finance system, PSF, for our MAT budget reporting or exporting data from each school into Excel. These options were time consuming to facilitate and once completed, lacked the ability to drill down into our numbers. I was constantly finding a number in PSF or a spreadsheet and I then had to log into one or more schools’ systems to find out the detail behind the headline, it was painful!”

Another issue facing Susanne was that in order to achieve ‘what-if’ scenario planning, or to simply ensure budget consistency, she would have to ensure that each budget setting, such as pay increases or funding assumptions, were entered into each school’s system, which took time to implement and was open to error. Due to these issues, Susanne was unable to run the various scenarios that she would have liked and said “Whilst the previous system did ultimately get the job done, I was always chasing my tail, in that I could not be as proactive as I would have liked”.

“Given the budget challenges that we were facing, I’d have to look at all sorts of scenarios to make the most of the budget and the system was not helping me to do this across our schools. If I was a standalone school it would have been fine, but the system hadn’t kept pace with the emergence of Multi Academy Trusts, and the subsequent need for them to be centrally managed. Our schools aren’t doing their own budgets in a silo, which are then being reviewed by the MAT. The budgeting process is a collaborative one and I needed one system to facilitate this, not one system per school.”

IMP provides a single system for the MAT and each school is part of the core, unified set-up.

We asked Susanne what she would say to other MATs who were in a similar position and she said

“We can’t be the only MAT who was struggling to set the direction within their budgeting cycle, so for anybody who is facing the same challenges as we were, IMP Planner represents a step change in the MAT budgeting space. The system is extremely powerful, it automates much of our budget lines and puts the us as the MAT firmly in control. We now have real confidence that our budgets are as good as they can be, so that we can focus on the budget analysis, rather than the budget preparation.”