All local authority (LA) maintained schools are required to submit Consistent Financial Reporting (CFR) returns.
CFR is the national framework for maintained schools income and expenditure items and balances. It was developed by the Department, in partnership with the Audit Commission and Ofsted, and is the main source of information on how maintained schools spend their resources.
Our Schools Financial Benchmarking website is available to help schools in self-management and improving efficiency through financial benchmarking. There are over 20,000 school records available on the site to enable financial comparisons and to help schools to challenge how they spend money.
The data currently available on the website is for the financial year 2010-2011.
Benchmarking can be used to identify significant differences in the way schools manage their resources. Through comparison with other schools' spending and patterns of service, schools can determine whether there is scope for doing things better: improving efficiency, reducing costs or identifying the potential scope for savings.
Financial benchmarking in schools is about more than just effectively managing the budget. It is about achieving value for money so that resources are applied to best effect. This means more than just picking the cheapest option.
Financial benchmarking can help schools to challenge the way they do things. Better use of finite resources can have a direct impact on educational outcomes. The role of headteachers and school business managers is crucial. They can encourage other schools to use the Schools Financial Benchmarking website. They can also involve front-line managers and staff in seeking out and implementing change. With strong leadership and support, schools can achieve measurably good outcomes from benchmarking their expenditure.
Some examples of schools using financial benchmarking effectively include the following:
This school had per-pupil teaching costs well above the average for similar schools. The school was also having difficulty generally with its budget. The headteacher carried out a thorough review of the staffing structure and shared this and the benchmarking information with the governing body and the staff. It was agreed by all that the school would undertake some restructuring, which it then completed successfully over a target timescale.
This school compared its per-pupil water use costs and found them to be well above average. It had a swimming pool so it identified other schools with pools. It still had water use in excess of theirs. It metered its pool separately from its buildings and noted that this was the source of excess use. Certain that it had a leak, the school then investigated the pool and discovered this was the cause. It reduced its bills considerably by this effort.
This financial benchmarking website enables all English maintained schools to prepare charts so that they can compare their income and expenditure profiles with those of similar schools.