Headteachers have traditionally led on schools’ teaching and learning, but with the increasing marginalisation of LAs, they now also have to tread the less familiar ground of running a business. One of the best business decisions a headteacher can make is to employ a good SBM, empower them to lead on the operational and strategic business aspects of the school and make them part of SLT.
Your SBM will need to know as much as possible about the school’s core business of teaching. An SBM who’s able and willing to understand your school improvement framework and key priorities will be far better placed to help you and SLT determine which decisions are affordable and sustainable for the school.
With dwindling budgets forcing schools to make painful decisions, it’s important to develop a business perspective of your own that will help you both work together more effectively. That might mean having to look at the school differently, and being aware that what was done in the past may not be affordable in future. The sooner you recognise this, the more you can do to proactively plan for it.
A basic budgeting principle is that income and expenditure must balance, which means starting with two choices – increase income or decrease expenditure, though in all likelihood you’ll need to do both. The best way to increase income is to ensure the school is fully subscribed by responding to demographics, and through actively marketing the school to ensure optimum pupil recruitment.
With around 70 to 80% of your expenditure likely to be going on staffing costs, it’s a key area to examine when looking at decreasing expenditure. Make sure your curriculum and timetable are planned efficiently, with all teachers working their full contact allocation. You can’t afford to pay for un-timetabled hours.
While you wait for your funding allocation to come through, your SBM can be building a budget based on the worst case scenario (say, 1.5% less than last year’s budget) and simulating different scenarios, such as an increase in class sizes and reduction in teaching time. This might be unpopular – but so is school insolvency.
Don’t rely on one-year budgets. Insist on producing three-year, or even five-year budget forecasts. Talk to staff, parents and governors about the school’s funding. Making them aware of the impact that funding changes will have on your school will help key stakeholders understand and accept any difficult budgeting decisions that the school might face.
The planning of your school improvement priorities needs to happen in conjunction with the drawing up of the school’s budget. If something isn’t affordable, either it can’t happen or something else will need to be cut. All potential initiatives should be looked at while keeping value for money in mind. Will the solution in question be the best way of spending money in order to achieve the required results, or could there a better value solution?
Nickii Messer is a school business leadership consultant and trainer; for more details visit nickiimesser. com or follow @NickiiMesser