West Lakes Academy is a sponsored single academy trust in Cumbria, which has used a wide range of methods to significantly improve a long-standing financial concern.
When reviewing the school’s financial position, Stephen Lester, the academy business manager, used benchmarking and financial measures to evaluate the academy’s current position. The tools helped him identify a number of key areas for focus which he agreed with the governors of the academy. One of these key areas was absence management.
In 2010, staff absence at the academy was 5.6%. This resulted in the academy having to spend over £150,000 on supply cover. To address this, the academy made changes to their absence management system to reduce the percentage of staff absence. To measure and track absence rates, the school used the Bradford Factor. The Bradford Factor is an absence scoring system measuring frequency, length and total absence. The academy also implemented enhanced occupational health provision and return-to-work interviews for all absences. These measures aimed to support staff whilst also holding them to account. Progress reports were also sent to governors and senior management team.
As a result of these changes, the absence rate improved to 0.6% by 2015. As the absence rate improved, the academy recorded significant savings in supply cover costs. The academy has reinvested much of the revenue saved on supply teachers into education. For example, the English department received extra resources for literacy and more general resources. This additional support helped contribute to the English department winning the Pearson award for Outstanding School Team of the Year in 2015.
Stephen highlighted how important it is for academies to find greater efficiencies. He said: “We have always tried to work effectively and efficiently. However, we do recognise that we need to be ever more creative and focused in our efforts. It’s important to understand your school and identify areas where you can make savings.”
Talking about West Lakes Academy, he said: “In addition to the financial benefits of low staff absence, the benefits to teaching and student learning have been very important.”
If you would like to find out more, you can contact Stephen Lester.