Ask Anna – Presentation of Financial Data

Dear Anna, How do you present financial data to your Governors? Norma SBM

Dear Norma,

Before I start could I just give a shout out to anyone who isn’t an SBM and has just fallen across this post in all innocence. Back away slowly if I were you. This post is going to be major dull for anyone who doesn’t eat, sleep and breathe education finance. 

You have been warned. 

I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all with data presentation so I can only tell you what I have been doing as a Secondary Academy and, as we have now converted into a MAT, I have had to make changes recently to my MI system in order to cater for the needs of Trustees and other Governing Bodies. 

I think it also depends on which accounting (and budgeting) software you use, your reporting software and the skills and experience of your stakeholders. 

I also have to declare that it is such a long time since I used FMS, I just remember the report was one long, rather dry list, it may have changed since my day. 

Some governors I’ve encountered in the past want chapter and verse. I always train them round to avoid this if I can. They don’t actually need to know that Food Technology bought three rolls of display paper last week, but they do need to know that their educational equipment spend is on budget and still forecasting to outturn on budget at the year end. 

So I give them a one page table of columns headed; Period Actual, Period Budget, YTD Actual, YTD Budget, Whole Year Budget, Whole Year Forecast. I then have a ‘commentary’ column that I populate with answers to questions I’d be asking me if I was a governor. (Many, many moons ago I did a stint as Chair of Governors in a primary school – I can ask myself some pretty searching questions!)

I still separate out Revenue (Restricted), Caputal and School Fund (Unrestricted) as governors are familiar with this, and they are then not completely flummoxed when it comes to the year end audit report. 

So along with opening balances, net surplus/deficit, forecast annual carry forward surplus/deficit, as well as a few conditionally formatted columns %age actual to budget, that is it on the numbers. 

Over the page I populate narrative boxes as we go through the year headed Personnel, Premises and Risks. This way they can easily be updated with staff changes and site works and we can discuss the current risks in the meeting. 

I distrbute this every month whether or not there is a meeting (except for July and August – I’m too busy pulling it all together for the year end and they are on their holidays)

Oh and of course the MAT Trustees get a balance sheet as well as a summary of every school.

I hope that answers your question? I’m not sure whether you wanted the bland detail like that? I’m guessing you are already doing something very similar. 

A final thought. Embrace and love the governing body that asks searching and challenging questions at the appropriate level. Encourage them to scrutinise the data and narrative that you give them and occasionally allow them the opportunity to drill down. A disinterested governing body means you’re on your own, which is not a good situation in public finance. 

You’ve got this. 

Anna

AskAnnaSBM@gmail.com

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