Heads should give budgets the same importance as attainment, says funding agency boss

School leaders should place the same importance of balancing their budgets as achieving educational attainment, the Education Funding Agency’s top boss has said today.

Peter Lauener, chief executive of the EFA, urged headteachers and school business managers to “bring both agendas together so they are both serving the mission of improving educational standards”.

He said: “Standards are a key part of meeting the challenges that you all face in the next few years.

“Headteachers need to lead these financial and organisational challenges just as much as they need to lead the challenge of raising education standards in schools.”

The EFA is overseen by the Department for Education and manages £54 billion a year to support all state-funded education for three-to-19-year-olds at schools, colleges and other training organisations.

Mr Lauener was speaking at the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) conference in Birmingham today.

New professional standards for school business managers were launched at the event.

They will help inform future CPD progression and career plans and will be used by schools to assess operational capacity, NASBM said.

Children’s minister Sam Gyimah said: “The new standards will not only define the characteristics of a good school business management professional, but will increase their standing and reputation, as experts in their field.”

Stephen Morales (pictured right), chief executive of NASBM, said it marks an “extremely important milestone” for the profession. stephen morales

“It’s a response to unprecedented changes in the education landscape – with more autonomy and a diminishing role for local authorities.

“Through professional standards we have secured the future leadership of the school business management profession.”

Budget funding pressures accounted for the majority of questions during the morning session.

Mr Lauener said: “Funding has been pretty tough and there’s going to be no letting up.”

During a question and answer session he backed the pledge by ministers for a national funding formula, saying he is not a great fan of school forums.

But added: “They might be the least worst system we can operate in this system.”

He also said he would pass on to ministers the strong feelings from the audience that school business managers should have a place on school forums. A school forum acts as a consultative body and a decision making body on school issues.

View the professional standards at

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  1. Alistair Thomas

    The Head of the EFA seems to be operating under the illusion that schools somehow don’t get finance, or don’t thin it is important. How patronising. How typical. Maybe if his agency was the Education Attainment or Education Outcomes Agency he would have a more appropriate perspective.

    Despite his funding obsession, the bottom line in schools has always been and hopefully will always be pupil outcomes. Of course funding is so important that funding itself and what you can achieve with funding are two sides of the same coin. I don’t know where Peter Lauener is coming from, but clearly he doesn’t spend much time in schools otherwise he would realise that squeezing the best outcomes from the funding available has been our reality for quite some time, even before austerity.

    I don’t know what he has against School Forums. They are as powerless as the DfE designed them to be. LAs can and often do completely ignore their Forums. Forums are designed to oversee the LAs which the EFA and its parent are systematically destroying, whether they be good or otherwise. We don’t need everything being taken into the EFA’s central bosom. Just look at the mess they have made of the national funding formula for a reference on its competence.

    Education funding should be conducted along 80% consistent national guidelines with 20% local tailoring, by local experts, overseen by local professionals and governors (Forums) with real teeth to hold the LA to account. There should be a clear difference between services to schools which apply across all settings often sparsely or in isolated pockets(High Needs, LAC, EAL etc) and special factors which are so common that they appear in every school, every nursery etc. (Deprivation, Low Cost High Incidence SEN etc). The former should be allocated centrally and commissioned locally and not given to potential academies as a bribe to convert. The latter should be funded once only in the formula and monitored by Ofsted rather than double funding with Pupil Premium of both services and special factors. Post 16 funding should be part of the DSG and the ESG should be much more formulaic and come under Forum scrutiny too.

    If Mr Lauener took his job a little more seriously and moved the EFA from Inadequate to Good with Outstanding features then I might take his point of view on School Leader’s knowledge of finance a little more seriously.