There was a time, not so many years ago, when the primary function of a schoolteacher was to teach. Yes, there was lesson preparation and marking which extended the working day by a couple of hours, but that was an accepted element of the job – just part and parcel of being an educator.
Today, the situation is very different. Teaching is still at the core of the role, of course, yet teachers are required to be much more than that. The person running the 21st century classroom must also be an IT expert, a social worker, a diplomat and, ever more frequently, a financial wizard capable of managing budgets, stock, invoices and procuring new items from an ever-widening range of suppliers.
If we should ever wonder why teachers are so stressed – and according to a survey by The Guardian newspaper, a staggering 80 per cent of teachers report problems with workload, leading to physical and mental health issues – this constant multi-tasking is highly likely to be one of the reasons. The problem is even worse in smaller schools, where lack of admin staff force teachers to be jacks or jills of all trades.
Teaching unions insist that teachers cannot be required to routinely carry out admin and clerical tasks that ‘distract them from their core teaching and learning responsibilities.’ While this is a noble ideal, the situation on the ground is very different. And to compound the problem, schools seem reluctant to change the way they purchase equipment and manage invoices – the reason being that ‘this is the way we’ve always done it.’
Teachers get little to no training in managing budgets, so it can be no surprise that very often equipment is purchased that may exceed budgets and could’ve been found cheaper elsewhere. While teachers can hardly be blamed for this, it is the case that it may lead to frustrations from admin/clerical staff who are trying to keep accounting, invoicing and the collection of receipts consistent.
So what’s the solution? Well, better staff training in school budgeting is one way forward. A few simple sessions may help to iron out future problems, particularly if they’re delivered by more senior teachers who can be on hand for follow-up advice. Another idea is to hold regular meetings for all those responsible for budgets, keeping staff up-to-date with financial requirements and sharing tips for more effective budget management.
However, both these may not solve the challenge of purchasing inconsistency and poor value for money. So a better solution could involve accounting automation software that makes purchasing simpler (and budget-friendly), incorporates paperless invoices and helps with budget forecasts and long-term savings. Using such a system also frees up teaching staff to do what they do best – teach!
For example, such a system can help teachers obtain equipment online and once the purchase is complete the purchase order can be sent automatically to the school’s administrative team. They can see what has been bought and from whom, ensuring that the best deals are found and preferred suppliers are highlighted.
An essential part of this technology is digital invoice capture. Using this system means all invoices are automatically captured and assigned to the correct purchase order, assisting in purchase analysis and helping to identify opportunities to save money across the board.
Of course, training to use accounting automation software will take a certain amount of time, but once this is completed most staff will find such systems intuitive and easy to operate. Given that we’re all used to researching and buying online for personal purchases, using a system in school shouldn’t prove too much of a headache – and certainly not one generated by masses of confusing paperwork…!
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