How to keep up with the finances of your growing MAT
July 25, 2022

Are you working at one of the growing numbers of Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) in the UK that manage at least two schools? There are currently 1,460 & the government wants to see more schools in MATs by 2025.

Gavin Williamson told the Foundation for Education Development summit that schools “benefit from being in a strong family. In other words, a multi-academy trust.

Multi-academy trusts are powerful vehicles for improving schools by sharing expertise, working collaboratively & driving improvements. It is living proof of the old adage: “a problem shared is a problem halved”.

So how does this apply to managing the finances of a MAT?

Are financial best practices shared between the schools in your trust? Does this relieve pressures on time & reduce the stress levels for members of the finance teams involved? Are savings made & effective budgets better established when schools are part of an academy? Are some ‘problems’ halved while other problems come to the fore when it comes to keeping up with the finances of a MAT?

Financial challenges MATs might face

Most MATs have five or fewer schools. However, many have 26 or more schools within their academy. That’s a lot of individuals in a lot of schools procuring & purchasing in a lot of different ways, spending a lot of money where a lot of savings could be made.

As MATs increase in size, the potential for financial issues to arise also increases:

  • Multiple ways of sourcing suppliers
  • Multiple ways of selecting suppliers
  • Multiple ways of paying for resources
  • Multiple ways of invoicing
  • Multiple ways of reporting on financial data

This doesn’t make it easy to monitor budgets or make financial plans. Precious time is spent trying to manage the finances. &, as we all know, time equals money. Money that could be spent elsewhere within the schools to benefit the learners.

One of the most effective ways to address these issues is to focus on procurement.

Effective procurement & financial sustainability for MATs 

There are some practices recommended by leaders of large trusts who have been in the position of needing to take control of their trust’s spending. Their experience & wisdom lead to some excellent top tips for effective procurement for MATs.

Put someone centrally in charge of procurement 

Someone needs the full responsibility (or a small team for a very large academy, perhaps) for procurement. Effective procurement can’t be done by someone in another role, trying to squeeze this responsibility around other priorities. This is key to the trust’s financial sustainability.

A procurement director for a MAT is arguably as valuable as a finance director. Working as part of a wider procurement network will mean that the procurement director has access to support & advice from others in the field.

The procurement director of a trust can liaise with key suppliers. Those suppliers should see you as ‘one body’ – not many separate, individual schools.

Build strong relationships with schools within the academy

A great procurement director builds a strong rapport with each of the schools within the trust. This means that schools are naturally more likely to be on board when it comes to making changes to procurement arrangements when they are suggested.

Help them understand the value of effective procurement & allay their fears around change. The SLT need to fully support the procurement strategy & work closely with the procurement director. This procurement strategy can in turn support many of the school’s aims & objectives.

Create contract registers

By creating contract registers with each of the schools within an academy, those in charge of procurement can initially start to look at where immediate savings can be made on spending such as paper & photocopying bills.

Visibly demonstrate the value of effective procurement

As the procurement director, keep records of the savings effective procurement is providing to share with the relevant schools. A procurement newsletter or email can be a great way to reach out & inform people about what procurement is & what the benefits to the school are when managed well.

Greener spending for MATs

Effective procurement can also control the carbon emissions of a school & the right P2P software can fully support a MAT’s carbon tracking.

Automation to support effective procurement & spend visibility in your MAT

When it comes to keeping up with the finances of your growing MAT & saving time & money, MATs notice huge benefits when they use a Purchase to Pay (P2P) software system.

These systems address all the issues listed above that MATs face when trying to keep up with the finances. They also make the actions suggested above for effective procurement easily manageable.

Using a software system offering punch-out integrations to key suppliers means that the end-users are limited to suppliers they purchase from. This means everyone within the trust making purchases is accessing the same pricing contract; a contract that will have been secured between the trust & the supplier to provide the best value for money.

P2P software systems also provide data & line-level reporting in real-time that is necessary for the procurement director or team to analyze.

Appointing a person with responsibility for procurement & investing in a P2P automation system are the steps you need to take to keep up with the finances of your growing MAT. Whether your MAT contains two schools or 32 schools, a P2P automation system will aid procurement & purchasing in ways that will provide immediate results. Feeling more in control & making significant savings really can be made easy.