innovatED Magazine - Issue 3 - Autumn 2019

IndependentSchoolsPortal

A lively mix of news, articles, opinion, research, insight and regulatory updates. We take a global perspective and bring the latest developments and outstanding practice from across the world and across different sectors to enable educators to deliver the very best for their pupils. Produced by an experienced and knowledgeable teaching and school leadership team, innovatED is a termly must-read for all staff rooms.

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Tom Packer, ISP East Midlands Network Chairman

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The school as a business

The great enabler

Budgeting:

Leaders in schools – senior and middle – would be horrified

if they felt they had no part in shaping their school’s future.

Yet I suspect that probably 50% or so of leaders do just that

– of their own volition!

Finance, budgeting. Dirty words for some teachers, for others

simply the Bursar’s or Business Manager’s job. One of the

exercises I ask staff to complete during my various CPD

sessions up and down the country is to prioritise their varied

and valuable roles. Out of over 500 delegates, only two

considered the budget to be towards the top of their agenda.

No one has ever put it at the top.

I submit, however that, quite simply, a budget is a plan for the

future. It might be the plan to operate the school for the

forthcoming year: curriculum, assessments, marketing,

pastoral care, events etc. Or it could be a strategic five year

development plan. Either way a budget is a plan for the

future, translated into financial terms.

Looked at this way, the budget becomes everybody’s

business. Certainly all leaders should have this plan at the

top of their agendas. Without it, I fail to understand how

the school can expect to survive comfortably in what is,

arguably, one of the toughest times in the history of

Independent Education.

The other side of the coin is, of course, how the school’s

hierarchy, including governors, views the process of

budgeting. For my argument to succeed, all stakeholders

need to acknowledge that the plan comes first. Only then is

it perhaps the Bursar’s job to translate the plan into

financial terms (although personally I should expect all

leaders to have a good understanding of how this

translation works and to assist in the process).

Understanding where the money goes

Following on from the notion that a budget is simply a future

plan expressed in financial terms (by the way, this isn’t just my

notion, most commercial business see it that way too) we

need to pay more attention to exactly how the budget is

constructed. Here are some of the priorities a school might

consider (this is by no means exhaustive):

Devising and teaching the curriculum; free child care before

and after school; marketing; new building developments;

extra-curricular activities; maintaining grounds and buildings;

maintaining the school’s database, staff training.

It’s well known that staff costs take up the biggest slice of the

budget. Yet looking at the list, how aware are you of the staff

costs involved in each item? Too often staff costs are simply

lumped together as one item, so it’s impossible to analyse

properly. What about the other costs involved? Does the

amount spent on each reflect its priority? For example, one

school I visited spends nearly £60,000 on staff costs

associated with child care and £3,000 on staff development.

Does this reflect the ethos and vision of that school?

I’m suggesting that schools might take a fresh look at

budgeting. The process often works like this. We start with

last year’s expenditure, adding on a bit to cover inflation and

other extra costs (teachers’ pension contributions, for

example), factor in any developments and compare this with

projected income. We then make some cuts and increase

fees to arrive at a balanced budget.

I’d suggest starting with the plans. The operational plan for

the next academic year: a prioritised list of what we intend to

deliver together with any long term developments. Take a

keen look at potential areas of waste, too. Translate these into

costs and, taking account of your priorities, make any cuts,

carefully assessing their impact, to arrive at the level of fees

and ultimately the budget.

I maintain that as far as possible the budget should reflect the

vision and values of the school. That means every member of

staff and parent understanding where the money goes •

Look after your Budget; it’s your plan – your great enabler.

Page 34 | Issue 3 | innovatED | Autumn 2019

Tom is a former Head, Inspector and School Governor. You

can get in touch with him by visiting:

www.independentschoolsportal.org/thomas-packer

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