December 2020 edition: How School Trusts can Prepare and Plan for the Next Normal

How School Trusts can Prepare and Plan for the Next Normal

Leaders in education have more than proven their worth over the past few months, especially in multi-academy trusts. They’ve rolled out sweeping changes and COVID-19 countermeasures seemingly overnight. While this is no small task, MATs have appeared to take it in their stride.

With the announcement of promising new vaccine trials, it looks as though we may be approaching the beginning of the end of the pandemic. However, in reality, we’re not out of the woods yet. These vaccines will take time to be fully approved and distributed; in the meantime, schools will continue to feel the long-lasting financial effects of the pandemic.

Now is the time for trust leaders to make sure their processes and systems are sufficiently flexible and adaptable, as this will make the difference between surviving and thriving in the ‘next normal’ that the coronavirus crisis is carving out.

To help your MAT prepare for the next normal, we surveyed over 400 trust professionals to discover how they've tackled the challenges caused by COVID-19 and we now share some of our findings.

Unexpected financial difficulties

Nobody could have truly predicted the widespread impact of the coronavirus crisis. For many academies, the upfront cost of installing new processes and equipment has been a very serious challenge. 45% of schools have seen an unexpected impact on their finances in the wake of COVID-19, and as time goes on this number will only grow as the situation unfolds.

This is where budgeting and analytical software packages come into their own. In particular, Business Intelligence suites can be used to predict a range of funding and expenditure scenarios that cover every possibility, so you’re always prepared for the worst.

Winston Poyton

That doesn’t mean the situation is beyond help. COVID-19 is a modern problem that can in part be tackled with modern, technological solutions. By leveraging their group spending power to adopt cutting-edge processes and technology, school trusts can instead use the crisis as an opportunity to implement widespread improvements that will help them to deal with unexpected costs in the future.

New unavoidable costs

No one could have predicted the need for PPE in schools, but masks, hand sanitiser and thorough cleaning routines have now become part of the everyday fabric of school life.

Of the schools we spoke to, 36% are feeling the financial impact of PPE, first aid and cleaning facilities - more so than any other COVID-19 contingency cost. For example, only 7% of our survey respondents have taken on emergency agency staff as a coronavirus countermeasure.

The increased demand for PPE and equipment can be difficult to manage without the right tools. However, asset management technology can make it easy for trusts to keep track of stock levels and to track equipment as it’s checked out by your staff, so there is less dependence on constantly monitoring and purchasing PPE stock.

The value of contingency

When the second lockdown came into effect, it proved that anything could happen during a pandemic and it's clear that we’re going to have to prepare for every possibility. Schools could be asked to close at the drop of a hat; in fact, 67% of school professionals have already made plans for future closures.

It’s going to be difficult to predict everything that could happen over the coming months, so it’s important to plan contingencies for every possible scenario.

This is where budgeting and analytical software packages come into their own. In particular, Business Intelligence suites can be used to predict a range of funding and expenditure scenarios that cover every possibility, so you’re always prepared for the worst.

Cloud-based administration

Multi-academy trusts are ideally suited to benefit from cloud-based administrative software packages, as they enable centralisation and cross-location collaboration on a grand scale. However, only 18% of the professionals we surveyed have so far changed their future plans to include cloud-based administration.

An overwhelming 91% believe that strong administrative services are crucial – so why are some trust leaders not looking to adopt cloud-based tools? This is a trend that needs to be bucked by any school trust that plans to thrive in the next normal.

Cloud-based administration will also help to future-proof your trust as it grows. If you look to implement it now, it will continue to be hugely useful in the future.

We’ve published the full results of our survey in a comprehensive insight guide which also includes cutting-edge information about the tools and processes that can help your trust to better manage some of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.iris.co.uk/guide/effective-school-and-trust-management-in-the-next-normal/


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IRIS Education Group has cutting-edge software solutions for every challenge raised in this article. To discover why IRIS is the partner of choice for your MAT, visit our website today.