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For governors - review and evaluation

Annual review and evaluation

The DfE publishes school income and spending for maintained schools as part of the performance tables. The performance tables provide information on pupil attainment and progress, school finances, pupil absence and school workforce. They also contain the most recent overall Ofsted judgement on each school and a link to inspection reports, this enables schools to see:

  • How the school spends its money, shown as ‘£ per pupil’, to allow comparison between schools of different sizes
  • Information about people who work at the school, including the number of teachers, teaching assistants, support workers, average salaries, and the ratio of teachers to pupils


The DfE has published a new version of the Governance handbook, which is comprehensive and covers all aspects of governance in any type of school or group of schools. Please find link below:

The DfE Governance handbook covers a range of issues, including ethos and educational performance.

Please find below excerpts relating to finance and the governors process of annual review and evaluation.  Script from the DFE Handbook is in italics, please see relevant financial sections below.

Asking the right questions is equally important in relation to money as it is to educational performance. Appropriate questions might include:

  • Are resources allocated in line with the school’s strategic priorities?
  • Does the school have a clear budget forecast, ideally for the next three years, which identifies spending opportunities and risks and sets how these will be mitigated?
  • Does the school have sufficient reserves to cover major changes such as re-structuring, and any risks identified in the budget forecast?
  • Is the school making best use of its budget, including in relation to planning and delivery of the curriculum?
  • Does the school plan its budgets on a bottom-up basis driven by curriculum planning (i.e. is the school spending its money in accordance with its priorities) or is the budget set by simply making minor adjustments to last year’s budget to ensure there is a surplus?
  • Are the school’s assets and financial resources being used efficiently? How can better value for money be achieved from the budget?

The importance of objective data

The board must have access to objective, high-quality and timely data if it is to create robust accountability and know the questions that need to be asked of the school leadership.

It is essential that every board has at least one governor with the skills to understand and interpret the full detail of the educational performance and the financial data available. These governors should make sure that the board has a correct understanding of the school’s performance and finances. They should identify from the data the issues that need to be discussed and addressed as a priority.

Sources of financial data

The department provides a range of financial information about maintained schools and academies. EFA’s toolkit for schools provides information for academy trusts about the support available to improve efficiency, including a new financial benchmark website. Boards can use this information to compare spending against that of similar schools. Benchmarking financial information in this way helps boards to question whether resources could be used more efficiently. For example:

  • Are other schools buying things cheaper or getting better results with less spending per pupil?
  • If the cost of energy seems high compared to similar schools, are there opportunities for investment in energy-saving devices to reduce the cost?
  • If spend on learning resources seems high compared to similar schools, are there opportunities for collaborating with other local schools to bring costs down?
  • If your spending on staffing is higher than other similar schools, are these schools achieving more in terms of attainment? If so what might be learnt from them about how they deploy their workforce?
  • If the spend on teaching assistants is higher than other schools, are Governors sure that they are being used effectively and efficiently to support pupil outcomes?

There is a wide range of information sources and tools available to help schools secure the best value for money. ASCL have published their basic tenets of sound financial planning to ensure that your school is running at maximum efficiency.

Source: DfE Handbook for Governors (November 2015)

> Planning for the financial challenges ahead


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