How to Gain Control of Spending Within Your School in Tough Times

WHEN it comes to focusing on budgets, none of us can say that we aren’t being warned about a looming economic crisis that threatens real hardship over the next couple of years.

For months now we have been watching interest rate hikes, tax rises and fuel and food prices spiralling ever higher. Every economist on the planet appears to be describing the consequences of economic turbulence ahead – turbulence that we ignore at our peril.

As we know only too well, government attempts to balance the books and restrict spending inevitably fall on public services, education being no exception. It’s been difficult enough over the last decade or so of cuts to keep the classroom lights on, metaphorically speaking, and now that we face choppy seas we have to find ever more innovative ways of keeping a lid on our school finances while attempting to manage the pain.

Putting aside the obvious ‘quick fixes,’ in terms of redundancies or non-replacement of staff, here are seven ways we can keep a grip on the school budget during hard times:

1. Don’t panic, and plan realistically

The temptation is to go into panic overdrive and slash everything you can. That’s hardly sensible; instead, look at previous budgets to learn where money was and wasn’t spent and keep an eye on pupil numbers, especially among neighbouring schools which might be changing their admissions policy. Check your curriculum – which parts of it need more money, and where could you impose savings? Could any maintenance upgrades be put on hold for a year or so, while the storm passes?

2. Monitor and review your budget monthly, and involve all staff

You’re all in the same ship, so why leave budget planning to the top team only? By making all staff aware of fiscal responsibility you’ll have both transparency and commitment to the cause. And by monitoring regularly you’ll have a much better eye on what’s happening, giving you the flexibility to make any changes quickly.

3. Always remember ‘VFM’ (Value For Money)

Now’s the time to have a thorough look at your list of preferred suppliers to see if they’re offering true VFM. You might be in a position to drive a harder bargain or look elsewhere for cheaper alternatives. Yes, it’s painstaking but necessary, because a pound saved here is another one spent there. It may also be worth contacting other schools to see if they’ll join forces when it comes to buying in bulk, or even share knowledge about current bargains.

4. What’s your sustainability plan looking like?

Aside from it being a responsible thing to do, an environmental audit may save you money in ways you haven’t considered before. Could you get a good deal on a replacement boiler that is far more efficient than your current one? Are solar panels a viable option, and could you replace light switches with motion sensors? Smart thinking of this kind is both efficient and inspiring.

5. Share resources, including staff

If your neighbouring schools are also struggling, consider getting together to share resources and staff. Instead of cutting roles, it might be the case that some members of staff could be allocated to different schools on different days. Such an approach needs to be handled sensitively but if you have expertise that could be shared temporarily, it is likely to be a far better alternative than losing roles completely.

6. Ask for help!

Your wider school community is very aware of the issues facing the economy at present, so ask for volunteers who could make a valid contribution to the life of the school. There are always the stalwarts who will help out and a wider appeal to those who’ve otherwise remained in the shadows may yield some real talent. If you don’t ask, you don’t get…..

7. Consider investing in accounting automation software

If it’s time to share the budgeting burden then it’s important to make the process as painless as possible. Investing in accounting automation software of the type Compleat offers makes purchasing a whole lot easier – as a result of not having to deal with paper invoices – and also assists with budget forecasting and long-term savings. As VFM goes, such a system is peerless and after initial training staff will find it user-friendly and intuitive. Tough times call for radical solutions, and there has never been a better time to break with the old way of doing things, budget-wise, than now.

For more information, visit us at Compleat

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