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Balancing the budget - other expenditure

The 20% of the budget spent on areas other than staffing

Often schools that do not have a stringent cycle of review that can make substantial savings and even those that do can sometimes make further economies. Hertfordshire have produced a Schools Commissioning Toolkit giving guidance on best practice in procurement available at the link below and the DfE is seeking to broker further economies on behalf of all schools.

Allocations of funds within the school should be outcome-driven and match the school development plan, not be based on the last five years of spend. Budget holders need to play their part in seeking value for money. A review involving budget holders of how these funds are distributed would promote greater understanding.

Schools have preferred ways of doing this, such as a formula, bids, or historical funding plus inflation, each of which has drawbacks. Whichever method a school chooses, there are common pitfalls, which can become embedded in the organisation.
- no direct link to learning needs
- over-allocation in some areas
- inflexible response to curriculum changes or developments

When every pound counts, it is important to avoid shortcomings wherever possible.

  • Do year groups, departments, class teachers or the SLT have a spending spree towards the end of the financial year? If so, they probably don’t require all the funding they have been allocated. Consolidation of even modest amounts of non-essential funds can result in considerable savings for the whole school.
  • Is expensive curriculum equipment a “nice to have”, or does it impact on learning? The national curriculum has changed demand in some areas; is it possible to organise the delivery of learning points that require expensive kit with another school, in order to share the costs?

Mireille Macraild, Early Years Adviser, Herts for Learning - discusses spending wisely in early years

  • Do you have stock control? How much stationery, paint, PE equipment, etc, is stashed around the school? Have year groups or departments accumulated quantities of materials and then spend more on the same? If you manage your own site, how are materials purchased: bit by bit or in bulk? If you manage your own cleaning, how are cleaning products purchased? Does the use of disposables match your estimate of what is reasonable? If not where is the wastage? A careful review of all these smaller costs can result in a significant saving.
  • Are you making best use of your site manager’s skills? Thinking about the times your site staff work can yield a greater impact and/or save money. Are you paying your site manager unnecessarily hours to be a presence and then lock up, or to during these times there to carry out small works or their other duties? Could cleaning be more cost-effective if it took place at a different time? These types of consideration are school-specific and, when explored, can potentially achieve a better service and/or savings.
  • Grounds maintenance will depend greatly on the size of the site and the usage. Have you explored taking this in-house and sharing the cost of large equipment with others in the area, or is it more cost-effective for your school to be part of a joint contract?
  • Printing can be a huge ever-expanding expense; is it under control at your school? Have you ensured staff are aware of the cost of printing and disposable products and the impact of those costs on their year group, department or the whole school budget?
  • Utility deals vary tremendously; have you got the best deal? Are you taking advantage of group contracts? Do you ensure lights are switched off at night? Is appropriate equipment switched off at night and in the holidays and/or have an appropriate sleeping mode? Is the heating managed to best effect; for example, if your school does not have evening activity and your system allows, could the heating be turned down or off mid-afternoon?
  • Information technology is a key tool for the business and learning aspects of the school. Do you have a three- to five-year plan that is realistic, focused and providing best value for the school? Is there another school that is in sync with you? The more schools that come together to purchase, the better the unit cost. Is it viable to share technical support with another school?
  • Insurance varies from school to school, with some including sickness and maternity leave. Have you compared your costs with those of similar schools? This is information that schools are usually very happy to share.
  • Catering varies tremendously across the country. Whether it is more cost-effective in-house or as part of a contract depends on what you want in terms of provision. If you are at a point of review, it is worth visiting other schools that achieve an agreeable and cost-effective service, to explore whether they are happy with their provider or have good reason to provide catering in-house.
  • Make use of resources, when suitable, that are free.
  • Scrutinising budgets that have grown over the last decade and trimming if possible. For example, the examination budget in secondary schools has grown very significantly over the last decade and it may not be suitable currently to spend in the same way.
  • Delivering external support, which you would otherwise purchase, more cost-effectively yourself. It may be that you purchase external support and that to continue to do so is absolutely the right action. It may also be considering training a colleague internally to provide the same support – this may involve upfront training costs but lead to savings further down the line.
  • Use online facilities to save staff time, e.g. payment of school meals, parent–teacher meetings, letters home to parents and carers, etc.
  • Review contracts with providers and investigate whether better value can to be found.Use purchasing agreements set up for groups and collectives.

Generate funding

  • Attract your local community to ensure all pupil places are full.
  • Selling services to other schools: teaching schools, multi-academy trusts, special schools and other schools of all phases often have high-level skills and capacity to support others in the education sector. This can work for all parties as it may be possible to purchase a service, curriculum support, shared leadership of a subject or phase, direct teacher input, and leadership capacity in a way that saves money or creates greater capacity for the purchasing school as they do not need to have a full-time equivalent person in place. The school selling the service has the opportunity to support colleagues and partner schools, whilst securing an income to pay for their staff time deployed elsewhere.
    It is worth thinking of how to build on any existing offers and opportunities that are currently available.
  • Making best use of your site? Many schools make the school building and facilities available to outside community and commercial groups. This has the benefits of providing community facilities, promoting the school and generating funding. There is of course a cost to the school, such as site-manager time, cleaning, wear and tear, and utilities, so you will need to ensure that the income covers the costs.
  • Generating contributions from parents and carers (controversial or not possible in many settings).
  • Raise funds through the PTA.

> Calculating teaching costs, pupil-teacher and contact ratios



Herts for Learning
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