Keswick School is a beautiful school in a beautiful setting. Picking up another ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating in 2014, Keswick School has been recognised as the top comprehensive in Cumbria. In July 2011 Keswick School became an Academy and is clearly enjoying the freedoms brought with its new found status. Ofsted reports the school “monitors spending, such as that of pupil premium funding, extremely carefully and ensures that it has an impact on students’ achievement. Finances are very well managed.”
This is an ambitious place; it has so much, yet wants more. Recent additions include new drama theatre, dance studio, recording studio, expansion to sixth form centre, suite of geography classrooms, media suite and additional science laboratory. Keswick School embraces and leverages the latest IT solutions such as biometric cashless systems. It’s an extremely successful juxtaposition of 650 years of rich tradition and cutting edge technology.
Ghislain Smithson, School Finance Manager and Dawn Boyes, School Business Director visited the Academy Show in 2013 on the lookout for an asset management solution. Initially ‘tempted’ to the SG World stand by our chocolate giveways, Dawn and Ghislain got a quick overview of AudIT from Ryan Beech, SG World Sales Executive; and liked what they saw. AudIT is an internet-hosted software package and auditing service designed to take the pain out of school asset management. With AudIT you can tag and scan assets such as laptops, tablets, AV resources and furniture. You can also register and track software licences and networked IT equipment. AudIT captures and reports on important information such as asset value and location, capital depreciation, maintenance schedules, photographs and insurance details.
“Ryan quipped that he fancied a visit to the Lake District and we wanted to see a lot more of such a promising bit a software.” said Dawn.
Like a lot of academies, Keswick was still getting to grips with working with the external auditors and knew they had an issue managing the school inventory. Effective asset management should play a key role in good school governance across the board but it’s often academies beginning to take on full financial autonomy who find AudIT as an absolute godsend.
“The Academies Financial Handbook definitely isn’t a document gathering dust in a drawer for us. It’s a living, useful reference tool and we follow it’s guidance to the very best of our ability.” said Dawn.
“Getting an overall picture of the school assets proved very difficult, information was kept in two places – spreadsheet and the Corero system , unfortunately the end figures weren’t adding up so we didn’t have much confidence in the values we were working with for things like capital depreciation and disposals. Setting the insurance premium felt a bit like a stab in the dark.”
From the start the simple interface was a big hit, Ghislain stressed how important ease of use was to herself and Dawn. “We wanted a solution that anyone could quickly pick up and get a clear picture of what assets we had around us.”
“We arranged a demo and to be honest we were initially a little sceptical. The software looked great at the show but we wondered how it would cope with the reality of our school and our situation . As it happened we were completely hooked, Ryan hadn’t even reached the M6 before we rang him to sign up. We had already seen a number of systems but were left with the impression of ‘they might do’ whereas AudIT was perfect.”
“We now have absolute confidence in our inventory. We’ve re-aligned our insurance premium and re-structured our accounts. AudIT has saved us so much time and probably our sanity. Every holiday we were playing catch up with the inventory and not getting the results we needed. We honestly dreaded the school audit.”
Another aspect of AudIT Dawn highlighted was the ability to access the whole system over the internet, creating real peace of mind that in the case of an emergency the information is easily on hand.
Keswick School also signed up for the Asset Discovery Service where SG World’s DBS checked engineers come onsite to record and tag school assets leaving them with a virtual map of the school with asset locations and information. SG World was also able to upload existing asset data from a csv format into the AudIT database, quickly getting things up and running.
“The guys who came on site were lovely and very thorough.” said Dawn. “It got us up and running straight away and it’s been so easy to keep on top of. If we have a temporary classroom I just add it to the system from my desk. We scan the tags and if something’s moved we update the system with the click of a button. The process is so simple we are planning to involve the students in performing the next audit as part of a business project. For the first time we’re getting an accurate picture of our software portfolio and can make meaningful decisions when purchasing new licences.”
Keswick School runs AudIT side by side with Corero, inputting the figures from AudIT into the accounts, to work out capital depreciation and produce write-off reports for governors meetings.
“What I would say to new academies is that with AudIT you don’t have to keep putting off sorting out asset management. I know working through an academy conversion is a very busy period, potentially there’s new capital builds and it’s very tempting to put off the inventory until things have settled down. However getting AudIT on board is so easy and puts down a great foundation for you to go forward. You free up some much time and effort to concentrate on other areas – I only wish we’d come across SG World sooner.”
“The last set of feedback from our auditors was fantastic. One of the auditors at Baker Tilly commented that it’s one of the best asset management systems they have ever seen. They were so impressed they have asked us to give a presentation at their next group meeting for North West based academies. We’re delighted to share our experience with other schools who might be struggling with asset management.”