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Is it possible to make school budgets more predictable?

As a school business manager, you will be feeling the financial pressure of school budgets. Here’s some simple ways to make your school budget more predictable.

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A high performing SLT is always supported by an equally savvy business manager. Whilst your school’s SLT is responsible for the school’s ongoing improvement plan and education goals, you provide the robust financial management to the improvement planning process.

It’s no secret that schools are under mounting budgetary pressure. As a school business manager, you may be feeling the heat of this pressure the most.

Your job of meeting the budget whilst providing the necessary resources for your school can be tricky to balance in our current climate. To make your school budget planning process more streamlined, it would be useful to have foresight on all your school’s upcoming costs. Whilst this isn’t always possible, there are certain actions than can help:

Coordinate with IT managers

Your job consists of more than setting budgets. You routinely, as school business manager, help make savings, identify alternative sources of income, and ensure that the school’s goals are financially viable.

For maximum transparency and schoolwide buy-in, you may already outline your budgetary plan and its implications to budget-holders and the leadership team, and provide scope for feedback. But do you also coordinate with other school staff?

“SBMs should be there to advise headteachers and governors on the implications of going down one route or another. There will never be enough money to do everything you want to do, so you need to concentrate on putting resources where they’re needed.” Graeme Hornsby, consultant, School Business Management and Governance

IT managers, for example, are well positioned to advise on the state of your school’s technological resources. Whilst they are not always on the front line, teaching-wise, they can provide expert feedback on the state of your existing technologies, and whether budgets could be stretched or maximised with alternative edtech.

Use experienced third parties

All schools rely on tech resources, even when budgets are constrained. Have you considered whether you’re getting the most from your tech reseller? Are they fully knowledgeable about schools’ goals and challenges, as well as having the technology ‘know how’?

Manufacturers like Promethean have a wealth of education experience, and can offer honest and expert IT advice rather than simply acting as a salesperson. What’s more, most can offer a one-stop-shop for your classrooms, including furniture, fixtures and fittings; all of which makes your budget easier to predict.

Audit your hardware and software

To fully understand where your school is sufficiently or under resourced, it may be helpful to audit your IT equipment. This can be done either in house or with your IT reseller, and will help identify where tech is still under warranty.

Also, why not speak to your classroom-based colleagues about past purchases. It could be useful to identify whether previously allocated budget provided value. Ask teachers about the best and worst things your school has purchased in the last few years, and why. Was the 3D printer a less worthwhile investment than the interactive front of class panel, for example?

Negotiate contracts

Did you know that 93% of businesses that took the time to actively negotiate with their energy suppliers said they saw a direct benefit in doing so. SMEs in the UK saved in total £511 million, with an average saving per business of £2,800.

The same rule could apply across a number of your third party providers. Consider the following points when negotiating with your suppliers:

  • The type of deal you want — best-case, average and worst-case scenarios
  • Your general approach to the negotiation — will you take a competitive or a softer, collaborative approach?
  • Your strengths going into the deal and how you will use them
  • Your areas of weakness and how you will deal with them
  • The areas you are prepared to negotiate on, and by how much

Take a long-term perspective

Few schools are able to make significant changes to their strategy and resource allocation within a single year, but a consistent application over a multi-year period may deliver better results. If possible, consider a 3-5 year budget plan, with the goal of re-aligning resources to fund higher priorities tech each year.

Working with a single year view, it can be hard to predict all the costs and expenditures your school will need going forward. A longer term view—especially with upgradable edtech like a Promethean ActivPanel that has a low total cost of ownership and a long, valuable warranty—will help guide future budget requirements.

Overall, your role as business manager is both challenging and rewarding, and with the current education budget cuts, it can be incredibly complex. It is rarely possible to achieve full visibility on budget allocations but with small process changes and the right edtech supplier, you could more accurately predict and manage the finances your school may need. Get in touch with us at Promethean, or your Promethean edtech supplier, to see if your existing IT could be optimised.