According to The Key’s latest State of Education report, over six in 10 (62%) primary schools said they would need to make savings to balance their budgets in 2017-18 – which for some schools could mean having to find hundreds of thousands of pounds.
School leaders report renting out their buildings as wedding venues, opening nursery provision, running second-hand shops and even using qualified staff to provide fitness classes to the wider community to raise funds. Not every school will have the facilities for those, but all schools can play to their strengths and think creatively about opportunities that may be open to them.
Working with local businesses
Business arrangements can take many forms, and don’t necessarily require significant amounts of staff time and energy. One school in Solihull made an arrangement with a local restaurant – the pupils designed a new cover for the children’s menu, and each time a customer orders a meal from that menu, the school receives a 50p donation.
The school actually has a number of similar ‘passive income’ streams, which earn a combined total of £5,000 per year, and also benefits from several sponsorship arrangements. The school newsletter, for example, is sponsored by a company that prints copies for free.
Good business relationships can in turn generate further opportunities. Another school’s partnership with Hilton Hotels, for example, resulted in Hilton staff using their annual CSR day to help carry out maintenance and repairs across the school site.
Make the most of your premises
Could any local community groups make use of your facilities? We know of one Nottinghamshire school that hosts Scout groups, training sessions for local sports teams, monthly cinema nights and business meetings. The school sets different rates for business and community groups – the former at a level similar to local leisure centres or conference facilities, and lower for the latter.
You could also offer your car park as additional parking facilities for weekend shoppers, or liaise with organisers of car-boot sales and negotiate payments to the school based on a percentage of each car’s entry fee.
Parents and members of the wider community will often voluntarily lend their time to help school budgets stretch further. Asking parents to help out with school DIY projects at the weekend could potentially negate the need to employ contractors or additional staff, for example.
There may also be further opportunities beyond your local community. We’re aware of one small rural school that received 25 free books from a publishing house, simply because the headteacher asked. As she put it to us, the worst that can happen is that somebody says no. Other schools have received similar donations of playground equipment, art supplies, and even vehicles.
Sara Martin is a researcher specialising in school funding and finance at The Key