King Edward VI Academy Trust use IMP ICFP to streamline ICFP across their Trust

King Edward VI Academy Trust, which formed in 2017, hosts six grammar and six comprehensive schools serving some of the most disadvantaged areas of Birmingham. The MAT is part of the King Edward VI Foundation and the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham, a diverse family of independent schools and academies serving the UK’s second city and influencing beyond. It strives for excellence and through forward-thinking and inclusive education seeks to raise aspirations and transform lives.

The trust implemented IMP ICFP, which supports trust-led integrated curriculum financial planning, having originally been involved in its development in the 2022-23 academic year. The platform aligns data-driven conversations between financial and curriculum leadership, enabling an integrated staffing model and multi-year ICFP planning, all within a MAT-first design. It is a much-needed development, said Head of Finance Deborah Cole, and will be “transformational” for the leaders in the MAT sector.

“IMP is keen to support the sector, and make things simpler for people, and I have been so impressed with them,” she explained. “When I heard about plans for IMP ICFP we became a pilot trust in its development, formed a network and worked with a group of people on the product, sharing data over time and providing challenges on what that should look like. I am really excited about what IMP ICFP is going to give us.”

Common pain points faced by trusts include fundamentally that there has been no integrated solution that offers ICFP, more a series of disconnected systems or spreadsheets which create significant workload, reducing time spent on all-important analysis and discussion. With another additional challenge facing trusts around models being out-of-date as soon as they are created, Deborah was keen to avoid the ICFP ‘merry-go-round’ and said IMP ICFP enabled both strategic insight and practical action.

“Good ICFP will empower better decision-making for the benefits of the trust and its pupils,” she revealed. “IMP ICFP allows a data-driven conversation across financial and curriculum leadership which means we can all pull in the same direction towards delivering better education. I have the data at my fingertips very simply and very quickly, and because the system is going to calculate it the information is there. Other than tweaking it and updating it as I would do in forecasting, at any point in time I can just provide metrics. This adds value in questioning ‘why’ we are doing what we are doing.”

Deborah added that one of the biggest issues is that “ICFP can mean so many different things, you can fall down rabbit holes and it starts to be overcomplicated”, and based on her learnings suggested the following broader principles for trusts.

“Key to understanding ICFP is what works for your trust and your context – for example, deprived schools may need more pastoral/support staff,” she said. “You choose what you report on as a trust, and whatever you choose, there is not one clear answer. If you have a different range of schools, you must understand your ‘why and what for’. If you are in deficit, knowing which levers you can pull is a must. If you employ too many staff or, if you are running six classes instead of five, know what the costs are. Having consistency across your schools to calculate metrics will drive conversations internally.”

Deborah continued: “ICFP facilitates better allocation of budgets to drive trust strategy. Having the right data and metrics to show headteachers, governors and trustees how you are performing, or support a case to put extra staff in subject areas, helps with the discussion on resourcing. Making those decisions is obviously necessary, but knowing the financial impact is the most important thing. You are then making the decisions with the right information, not just because you think it is a good thing to do.”

For other trusts which may be setting out on their ICFP journey, Deborah offered the following advice. “I know our vision for ICFP at King Edward VI Academy Trust – but this may not be the same everywhere, so that is important to recognise,” she said. “Understand what curriculum planning is, that is a good starting point for any finance lead, and this is when you get people’s ears. I now understand how curriculum planning, timetables and staff allocations fit together. For example, how many people you need and what that equates to in certain subjects in certain schools with certain facilities, although admittedly I am still no expert.

“Some of the reasons why heads do things are really important to those schools, and we have to know that so we can make sure we support them, keeping their wide curriculum if that is what they need or really concentrating on English or Maths if that is what they need to do because of their specific intake or context.”

Deborah concluded by reflecting on the role of IMP Software and its partnership working with King Edward VI Academy Trust Birmingham.

She said: “IMP Software has made a big impact. What I would say about IMP is their people always listen, and the support function is really strong. There are a number of big players out there who do not have the customer service that schools and trusts need, and I know IMP is keen to keep progressing that standard. It is clear they are here to help, and provide little tips which add to the experience. They also quickly disseminate information on new grants, and templates for response, which saves us time.”

Case study developed: February 2024

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