Every school has to manage a host of competing financial needs - you have to focus on them at the same time to balance them effectively – sometimes that can feel like it is making us cross-eyed! It’s a lot easier to focus on one or the other. So how can we manage the competing needs?
As a leader it is important that you take a step back and try to view the wider perspective. This is the “bird’s eye view”. It is very tempting to just plough on with things and go with who shouts loudest, however, this will often lead to problems later down the line.
You have listened to the case put forward for why each department needs the finances and they are all compelling, so how does a SBL manage this? Firstly, the decision is not just for the SBL, it is a school decision which the SLT and Governors should be involved with. By having a number of people making the decision ensures that a number of views can be obtained and there is a consensus on what can be achieved.
Then it is all about risk-based decision making. There are plenty of examples of how you can do this but here are a few things that I feel you should be considering.
What happens if i don’t do this?
In lots of cases it might be nothing, but in some cases the impact of doing nothing could be so serious it carries a prison sentence. I’m thinking Health and Safety-based needs.
Is it part of the whole school strategic plan?
Every school has a plan of where they want to be in the future. Spending should be aligned to the plan as that is the ultimate goal.
What is the financial implications of this?
So we need to be clear, if it is an H&S risk it must be actioned and finance is not going to be a justifiable reason in court. However, when considering a request for a new trim trail the financial cost would play a part.
Can we simply afford it?
How will this effect outcomes?
The impact that the spending is going to make on outcomes should be considered. If the business case demonstrates that a rapid and sustained positive impact on outcome will be achieved then this should be considered.
Is it achievable?
Departments will all put forward a business case for what they want, or think, will make a great improvement to their areas. But, ask the question ‘is it really achievable?’. The PE department might provide the greatest business case for a new swimming pool to improve swimming outcomes but is that really realistic and are there any other alternatives?
Once you have considered these factors, and you may wish to add your own, you can demonstrate a clear rationale behind the decisions you have made when managing competing needs. This information should then be fed back to the team so they can understand your rationale behind where you have prioritised the need.
Phil Burton is school business manager at Hallbrook Primary School.