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Lessons in budgeting for School Business Managers

At a time when school budgets are being pressed harder and harder, how can school business managers improve services but remain cost-focused?

Nicky Gillhespy, a school business manager, helping other SBMs.

Nicky Gillhespy, a school business manager, helping other SBMs.

Nicky Gillhespy is the School Business Manager at Cheam Fields Primary School in Surrey and she is also an NAHT National Executive Member (SBM Rep).

In her role, she is responsible for how the budget is spent. She says that, in her experience, there are a number of ways to maximise resources that can benefit a setting in more ways than just financial.

Here are Nicky’s five top tips…

Tip one

Use an online search system for purchasing as these can be especially good for ICT equipment like tablets and PCs and which give anonymous quotes from a number of suppliers. This takes a lot of time and effort from the workload of an SBM and presents information that can be digested quickly, enabling a fully-informed decision to be made.

Tip two

Printing can be a costly affair, particularly if you simply don’t know how much you print or if people print what they like without thinking about whether print outs are needed in the first place. Cheam Fields audited its procedures and printers, and replaced seven desktop printers with a more cost-effective printing hub. As a bonus, not only has it made a difference to how the school prints, and how staff think about printing, it now prints three times as much as it used to for the same cost.

Tip three

Train current Teaching Assistants (TAs) to be HLTAs (Higher Level Teaching Assistants)  to cover teacher absence. This will prove to be a lot cheaper than supply teachers employed via an agency and also enables career progression for TAs. Additionally, this option offers continuity for pupils who have staff who know them and the way that school runs.

Tip four

Energy is the third highest spend in school after staff and ICT. Switching energy supplier away from a local authority agreement should be looked at. Cheam Fields switched to a company that are like the well-known comparison websites and it also looked looked at various ways to save energy in school. Part of this led to the school gaining an Eco Schools Green Flag award.

Tip five

Organise collaborative projects with other local schools to get better deals on such things as PAT testing, electrical fixed wire testing, purchasing ICT equipment in bulk orders, getting legal agreements drawn up as a group but for use in individual schools and payroll services.

There are many ways in which SBMs can think clever when it comes to finance and budgets, as Nicky has shown. One of the key things for Nicky is the auditing of the situation, whether it is printing or supply teacher costs. Without asking the right questions, SBMs will not get the right answers, and, in turn, the solutions will not be right.

At a time when budgets are stretched, no school can really afford to get it wrong, can they?