Process Optimisation and Data Efficiency in Schools

June 15th, 2018

Hands up – who is and has used a process that they know is a bit long winded and not necessarily the most efficient but finding a slicker, quicker solution seems more time consuming for some reason? It’s an easy trap to fall into. Whether it is a process you’ve implemented yourself, or inherited from a colleague, taking the time to refine this process, or even find a new one, is not something many of us prioritise on our never ending to do lists.

However, scheduling that time is often well worth it and will save lots of time in the long run. In my experience, there are a number of areas within which schools and academies could optimise their processes and be more efficient in the use of their data. In most cases it is about only having one version of student and staff data, thus minimising the amount of keying in of data.

SIMS Related Process

Single Central Record (SCR)

  • Is your SCR on SIMS?
  • Use a single central record template to make collecting and adding the data a more efficient process

Class registers

  • Are your class registers inputted directly into SIMS from the classroom?

SIMS dashboard

  • Have you customised your dashboard?  For example for Behaviour management and the School Diary to include Governor and finance meetings, Sports days etc

SIMS users and permissions

  • Update your system regularly to ensure users who have left the school are deleted and re-assess the permissions all current users have. Are these still appropriate?
  • This process will prevent staff accessing data that they shouldn’t. It will become even more important when SIMS moves to the Cloud as staff who leave the school could still have access to your data through remote access.

PPG data

  • Pupil Premium / ever 6 / School meal history report
  • Check Free School Meal eligibility with Food in Schools every term or half term

Finance Related Processes

Accounts receivable

Use the AR module to create invoices instead of making them in programmes such as MS Word and recording them in a spreadsheet.

The module records income in the accounts immediately and any missing invoices can be spotted easily, minimising lost income by not letting it turn into bad debt.

Accounts payable

Cut down on the number of cheque runs by monitoring your creditors using an aged creditors report in your finance system and by invoice date in the invoicing module. Only pay those that are reaching their due date. There is no need to pay every invoice as you process it.

Finance document filing – paper

Keep a folder for open transactions as they move through the procurement cycle prior to payment. Have tabbed sections for Requisitions to process, PO’s outstanding, invoices to process, invoices to pay.

File completed transactions by supplier name or PO number, not by cheque/BACS number. This saves time when reviewing files for a query, as the relevant transaction can be found quickly without having to look up the cheque/BACS number in the finance software. Hanging (suspension) filing cabinets are best for filing by supplier.

You can avoid filing paper copies altogether by moving to electronic copies of purchase orders and requesting electronic invoices from customers. This requires a patch from Capita if you are using FMS but most other systems do this as standard. Requisitions, too, can be in Excel format and emailed for authorisation.

Finance document filing – electronic

This needs to be logical and complete, just as your paper filing does. The importance of good record-keeping cannot be over-stressed. Ensure that others can easily find documents in your absence, if required.

A clear way to start is to group everything by the main areas of the SBM role: HR/Payroll, Finance, Infrastructure, and Marketing. Examples of how these would branch out are set out below. If you move your procurement to paperless then you will need a section for accounts payable.


HR Processes Flow ChartFinance Processes Flow Chart

Infrastructure Processes Flow ChartMarketing Processes Flow Chart

A variation of these structures would be to have a separate top level folder for contracts, so these can all be found in one place. It is important to be able to find a contract quickly so you can verify charges and periods. You should have a separate paper folder with all contracts in.

Whilst you can add your own tweaks to the above, keeping standardised processes is in the best interest for your establishment as it ensures consistency and that every member of your team understands each level and each step of the process, meaning you can work more effectively as a unit.

Octavo’s Information Systems team can assist with creating reports and templates for those they support.  If you are not supported by the team then you can still attend one of their courses.  Please search ‘SIMS’ on the Octavo Partnership website to find details of our upcoming courses. 

Octavo’s Finance team can help with process mapping to help you find efficiencies and guard against continuity problems when staff move on. This can be a one-off task or you can purchase a financial health check to assess your entire finance and governance function in one go. We also have various finance personal development courses which can be found on the Courses page of our website. 

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Process Optimisation and Data Efficiency