Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) will be able to maximise educational success by ensuring the effective deployment of resources and design the best curriculum they can afford, following the launch of Exeter-based IMP Software’s new Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning (ICFP) product.
IMP ICFP enables data-driven conversations between financial and curriculum leadership, supported by real-time visibility; an integrated staffing model where both budgets and curriculum planning through the same staffing dataset remove the need to manually populate data; and, for the first time, multi-year ICFP planning.
ICFP is a management process that helps schools to plan the best curriculum for their pupils with the funding they have available. It involves measuring current curriculum, staff structure and finances, and using the data to create a three to five-year plan. It can be used in any phase or type of school, and has been widely championed by the Department for Education.
“At a high level, a simple question at the core of ICFP is, ‘How many lessons do I want to deliver (based on the number of pupils I have) and do I have the right number of teachers to deliver this requirement?’” said IMP Software Co-Founder Will Jordan. “What ICFP then does is ensure that staff planning and curriculum design decisions are made in tandem. By understanding the curriculum need, and the resources available within the current plan, staff planning can be discussed alongside data, rather than ‘in head’ understanding and opinions. However, this has not been an easy process for MATs.”
Over the past 18 months, IMP Software has undertaken market research about ICFP among MATs to understand how it is working, the underpinning processes and tools, and “what parts of the jigsaw are making it much harder”. As a result, a number of “common challenges” have been identified, and a recent IMP straw poll found that only 10% of trusts that were sampled have fully embedded ICFP across their schools.
“Ironically, there has been no integrated solution that offers Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning.” Will revealed. “What we have is a series of disconnected systems or spreadsheets that create significant workload, reducing time spent on the all-important analysis and discussion. Models are out of date as soon as they are created, so decisions can be based on inaccurate data. ICFP tools have only generally provided a one-year horizon. Including ‘non-payroll staff’, for example sports coaches and peripatetic music teachers, is either not possible or open to error. And MAT level analysis is difficult due to differing subject codes, class/year group structures and non-comparable timetable profiles.”
Will explained that there was a real need for MAT-focused technology which would enable trusts to ditch the spreadsheets and embed an iterative approach to ICFP. In the last year-and-a-half, IMP Software has set about adding some tools to its flagship IMP Planner product to help trusts move from thinking about ICFP to being able to embed it, and experience the benefits. In IMP ICFP, IMP Planner staffing and ICFP staffing is integrated, so both the budget and curriculum plan information will always be ‘live’.
“We are bringing the integrated back into Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning,” Will said. “Fundamentally, what we are doing is not reinventing ICFP, but simply removing all of the current barriers from ICFP approaches so MATs can actually do ICFP in a meaningful way. Staff information is always in IMP Planner – this is always kept up-to-date, always maintained, so this is always fed into the curriculum plan which is also being maintained – and then there is always a reconciliation between the two systems.”
Will continued: “ICFP can then be embedded into the termly/half-termly planning cycle, ensuring that all staff planning decisions are grounded in data, not opinions and memory. Multi-year ICFP, using a granular maximum class formula, is automatically populated. Pupil number estimates are driven from IMP Planner. Maximum classes can be configured at MAT, school, year group, activity, or a combination of all four, ensuring maximum modelling ability with minimal maintenance. It also includes ‘non-payroll staff’, so all staff that are used to deliver curriculum activities are included within the model.”
With MAT level analysis being so rare in the sector, IMP Software has used its expertise at “aligning inconsistent school ‘things’ into standardised MAT level data” to bring a unique deep dive analytics to the product. “We have a lot of experience in supporting quite complex MATs and giving them the ability to analyse and compare their schools,” Will said. “We have trusts that operate across 12 different local authorities, with different pay scales and working patterns, and we standardise all of that so you have uniformity when looking at trust level. We are applying this same logic to curriculum planning.
“IMP ICFP can bring understanding on the effectiveness of year group and subject allocations, including actual cost (including TLRs/allowances and on-costs) of curriculum activities, which are driven from staff contracts held in IMP Planner. We do not need to use generic average cost numbers because we have got the actual costs of every staff member that is assigned to every single activity. So the reporting available to MATs is much more granular and based on real school data, as opposed to fairly high-level averages that may mask some of the challenges or opportunities within the underlying data.”
IMP Software, which was established in 2019 and is also based in Peterborough but operates as a virtual team nationwide, works with over 300 MATs and nearly 3,000 schools, supported by a team of over 50 specialists.
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