Budget Review – this will tell you how your school got here!
Whilst there are many guidelines and advice resources (especially from the DfE) out there for schools in relation to all financial matters – health checks, efficiency measures, checklists etc. – these guides are always useful but it is your school insight and knowledge that matters now as every school is different with its own unique expenditure profile and staffing structure.
You need to go into the detail behind every line of the budget and be especially mindful of making sure current spending is factored in as some cost centres will already be on track to overspend and so changes to spending may only achieve part year savings this year.
Expenditure on staffing: Review and Restate!
It’s your biggest spend and where the most difference can be made. Remember to review and challenge ALL areas – your job is to be objective and advisory to those making the decisions.
- Make sure you focus on roles NOT people – what roles are needed – not always who performs the best
- Identify temporary contracts and consider savings now and in the future if contracts are not extended
- Review any resignations or ending contract, think creatively about covering the post with existing staff without the need for ‘backfill’
Any staffing restructure is expensive and a medium term project – it will be vital to ensure , once the schools budget is back in surplus, that the structure is ‘futureproof’ and won’t push the school back into deficit in the coming years. Judge all staffing decisions on their value, impact and potential savings.
Identify all the services you buy in light of their ‘educational benefit’ this makes the case for keeping them a solid one. BUT be mindful that some services may not appear directly related to education but will be having a positive effect on pupil outcomes and school performance metrics. It’s your SBM knowledge that is needed here to make those connections.
- Be careful of penalty clauses for stopping services early, list all the schools contract and agreements forensically and pass to the SLT for review and recommissioning!
- Unplanned expenditure will always happen and you need to make allowances for this, a Health & Safety requirement for example. Tackle unplanned expenditure case by case and review each expenditure request form a whole school viewpoint, what one colleague sees as essential may in reality not be needed elsewhere.
- Capital review – anything not yet started will need to be reviewed in the light of your deficit with serious consideration of whether to proceed with these – it may be a ‘now or never decision for the SLT!
Funding and Income:
The deficit may have been born of a decline in school funding – if this is the case then you have to take the following actions:
- The available funding needs to be aligned solely to curriculum activities that underpin school performance – extra and wider curricular activities may be at risk but need to go on the list the SLT will have to make a decision about.
- Look at a micro level at all income generated, does it really cover the costs of the clubs and visits the school runs, do the fees for those need to increase
- Ensure your debtors are chased and paid – at both parent and Local Authority level
Always align your budget with the school improvement plan, challenge all areas of expenditure and always plan for the unplanned!
You can never relax however, once a current year surplus is achieved again, further cuts and reductions may be needed to prevent future year deficits. The earlier decisions are taken the earlier they can take effect!