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The Ledger interview: Matt Burrell, Honiton Community College

Ever had to welcome the bomb squad to your school? No? Well, our interviewee had to, all while saving his school thousands of pounds...

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Ever had to welcome the bomb squad to your school? No? Well, our interviewee had to, all while saving his school thousands of pounds...

Name: Matt Burrell

Job: Director of finance and resources

Name of school: Honiton Community College, Devon

Profile of school: Secondary academy, age range 11-18. There are approximately 800 on roll, with 124 staff.

How many years have you been in post? Two years at Honiton.

What were your previous roles? School business manager at a large special school (four years). Senior ICT lead in a large secondary school (12 years) and ICT manager/technician in another large secondary for four years.

How many staff are there in your department? Eight direct reports, plus I lead the associate staff team.

What has been the biggest challenge in your job so far? Managing the scale of budget cuts over the past two years. In 2016 we had to cut £170,000 and this year £200,000: roughly 5 per cent of the budget.

What will be the next big challenge in your job? Getting my school rebuilt! I am embarking on a scheme to refurbish and replace. Over 50 per cent of our buildings are sub-standard. We have done well in gaining three bids from the Education and Skills Funding Agency/Department for Education to rebuild two blocks and refurbish another. Our new gym and sports building is nearing completion and should be handed over on 4 September.

What is the best advice you have ever received? People are your biggest asset and to lead by example.

What has been the best money-making project that you have introduced in your career – and how much did it make? Outsourcing in-house ICT support services and reprographics services. We made circa £40,000 per annum.

What has been the best cost-cutting project that you have introduced in your career – and how much did it save? Excluding staffing rationalisations, a review of our printing system, which saved circa £15,000.

Do you have a funny story about your time in the job? The day Ofsted called and I was the only senior leader in school to take the call. The others were all out at meetings or courses. Not really funny during the process, but certainly a unique experience, looking back. It is something which a school business professional would not expect to have to do.  

What has been the biggest surprise you’ve had in your job? Having to call the bomb squad to carry out a controlled explosion of science chemicals. We had to follow some new advice which came into force surrounding how a particular chemical used in science was stored. No one was at risk and a number of schools had to carry out these controlled explosions.

What has been your best memory so far? The people whom I have worked with and how much they have supported me, and the work of the schools I have been proud to work in.

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