All principals know setting a school budget is a key responsibility that goes with the job.
While it can often feel like an arduous task that doesn’t directly relate to teaching, its impact will have a profound impact on the quality of education students receive. Effective school leaders will regard schools budgets as a great opportunity to reflect and set priorities for the coming year.
Here are our top tips to help you get ahead:
1. Focus on long term school goals
Before you begin, it’s helpful to sit down with the leadership team and other key stakeholders (PCA/P&C) to discuss goals for the upcoming and future years. These goals may already be articulated in your various school plans:
- School Improvement plan
- Business plan
- Investing for success
The primary goal of a school is to ensure quality education for all of its students. This means not just academic results but personal and social development as well as 21st century skills – in other words, your school vision/motto/values!
The budget allows you progress towards these goals so think bold and use the group discussions to get buy-in for your vision. There are many tools such as ‘Objective, Key Results’ (see how Google use it) or ‘Key Performance Indicators’ that can help you track your progress. Pick the right one for you and remember to think long term.
2. Plan for the unexpected
Managing a budget is equally as important as creating your budget. It’s important to schedule checkpoints to assess how progress is going and hold those responsible for implementing the budget responsibilities to account.
It’s always wise to ensure that you have some safety funds to meet unexpected expenses such as those seen this year with the Covid disruption. Furthermore, priorities may change throughout the year which you should be able to respond to.
3. Do your homework
Each school receives different funding depending on their school profile, location, sector and state. Make sure you understand all the different funding available and whether you are eligible for additional funding. Remember that some funding will come with specific restrictions on what it can be spent on.
Next you will need to ensure that you are looking at historical spending and what prudent steps can be taken to reduce expenditure. E.g. If you’ve had a lot of unexpected costs such as building repairs then it may make sense to increase building maintenance spend to prevent expensive repairs down the road.
4. Work smart, not hard!
Each expense counts towards the bottom line, money spent on one thing means money not spent on everything else. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you consider the impact of each expenditure on your progress towards your long term goals.
We all know that value for money is important, but what does that mean in a school context? One may consider it better value for money to get a job done by a member of staff, rather than hire speacilist. While this may save money, it has other costs: time, focus and staff sentiment. The same logic applies to your time and mental bandwidth, anything that can help save you time and allow you to focus on leading your team and ensuring high quality education is worth considering.
“MathsClub stood out because of the fact that is was 1-to-1 tutoring and it was within our budget”
5. Think like a Salesperson
Here’s your opportunity to demonstrate your business savviness and eye for an opportunity. There are lots of potential ways to either supplement funding or reduce costs by thinking like a salesperson. Here are some suggestions to get you started…
- Negotiate with vendors for discounts if you buy with other schools
- Engage local businesses for sponsorship for teams/activities/events/publications
- Have local community members contribute time to support the school – a great way to engage and build community connections
- Where possible and appropriate ask parents to contribute to costs – some of our partner schools have parents subside the cost of MathsClub for their children
One deputy head’s suggestion resulted in the school receiving 10s of thousands by selling a billboard advertising space while a school building along a busy road was under construction. While the deputy head received a lot of praise for this, he actually had undersold the advertising space by about 50%. Nevertheless, every penny counts!
2020 Pimary School Budget Survey
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