Nova Education Trust, a cross-phase Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) committed to “working at the very heart of our communities” in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and Leicestershire, has appointed IMP Software to foster a more strategic approach to Trust financial management.
The Trust, which has 15 academies – five primary, nine secondary and one sixth-form college – needed a MAT-led budgeting, forecasting and reporting tool after reaching the point in its growth where the use of individual school budgeting systems was no longer proving effective. “Whilst we have had reasonably enhanced budgeting and finance systems in our Trust, as more schools have joined more inefficiencies in our approach have emerged,” explained Steve Orton, Nova Education Trust’s Chief Finance Officer. “This centred particularly on collating and maintaining individual spreadsheets for each of our academies. We were first introduced to IMP Software 12 months ago and their system will take away the pain points we have been experiencing, not least in manual administration.”
Steve, who joined the Trust in 2017 before being promoted to his current role four years ago, also highlighted how the award-winning IMP Planner system would support a “change in the way we work with schools”. He said: “As a centralised Trust finance team we are not just there to be ‘bean counters’. We want to spend time looking at what the accounts are showing, how these link to school and Trust KPIs, and add value. To do that consistency and depth of insight are important, and that is what IMP Planner brings. If we have 15 different Excel spreadsheets, one for each school, with that approach you are always questioning or doubting whether these have been updated or refreshed. Having this built into one single system gives us confidence, competence and accessibility of information.”
After appointing IMP Software in February, IMP Planner is now being implemented across the Trust with a view to full roll-out from April. “When we looked around the market to see what else was out there, some Trusts were using systems that were not built for MATs, and were not intuitive like IMP,” Steve revealed. “As well as being MAT-led, which is really powerful, its effectiveness and functionality is impressive. IMP Software itself is led by accountants and this is reflected in what you get as a product.”
Nova Education Trust, which educates over 10,000 pupils supported by around 1,200 staff, now has what Steve describes as the “platform for more strategic analysis”. He explained: “Financial planning will be much more mature as a result of this partnership with IMP. It will enable us to make better informed decisions about supporting school and Trust improvement priorities, using finance as the means to deliver that. Currently we might look at Integrated Curriculum and Financial Planning (ICFP) once or twice a year, and now we will be doing that regularly and a more ongoing basis. Also on teachers’ pay, we may not know the recommendations on that until the summer, but with IMP Planner we can model around a 3, 4 or 5% pay increase and plan ‘what if’ scenarios.”
Steve also offered some advice to the wider MAT sector. “There are so many variables and unknowns with school finance and whilst there is understandably a focus on where we are right now, Trusts need to make sure they give enough capacity to look at future forecasts and move away from reporting historically. Over the next 12-24 months we want to invest in areas that drive educational improvement. The MAT-led technology and automation brought by IMP Planner will help us to achieve these objectives.”
IMP Software is now working with 152 MATs and 1,325 schools across England and customers include Trusts of all sizes overseeing primary, secondary and special provision. IMP Planner helps MATs to co-ordinate their planning and budgeting processes, apply discipline in financial management, and prepare monthly budget monitoring reports. Co-founder Will Jordan said: “We are delighted to be working with Nova Education Trust and a Trust finance team that is invested in delivering a more effective approach to strategy, including making sure they are on top of forecasting.”
Case study developed: March 2022