The DfE benchmarking website enables you to benchmark information from other schools and academies and also your own historical data. The data for LA maintained schools was updated in October for the 2018/19 figures which is a quicker update than previous years, allowing the data to more useful.
We have seen benchmarking completed and presented in different ways, a business manager may prepare a report with the data and conclusions, or it can be completed as part of finance committee meetings. Both ways will allow you to evaluate if your current costs are too high in comparison to similar schools or academies, or where your own costs have changed significantly over the past few years.
In our experience, the best results come from selecting your own comparators. Picking local schools and academies in similar situations to yourself means that the resulting graphs can be very informative. If your costs appear high, don’t be afraid to give the other schools or academies a ring to find out why their costs are lower, maybe they can recommend a different supplier.
We always recommend completing a benchmarking exercise as part of the due diligence process when a multi-academy trust is taking in a new school to help assess their financial performance.
Benchmarking can be a useful and informative exercise and you should always ensure that you investigate the outcomes and act on any findings.
However, always remember that the data is only as good as the input allows, and although there are guidelines around what expenditure items should appear in which headings, inevitably there will be some anomalies so don’t immediately panic if your spend is significantly different from others!