The exorbitant rise in energy prices and the increase in inflation has heaped enormous pressure on schools and trusts who are having to come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions to keep within their budgets. It’s an extremely challenging time for headteachers who not only have to deal with these extraordinary rising energy costs and a crippling cost of living crisis, but are also faced with having to cover government approved teacher pay rises, without the additional required budgets. In this article, we consider some of the ways in which they can cut back on spending (and make money!) to deal with the challenges.
There are some obvious quick wins such as investing in the right technology, which despite requiring an initial short-term cost, will generate savings over time. Schools historically have relied on paper documents to keep updated records of pupils. Moving to a paperless system will be a key way on cutting back on expensive printing costs (paper, ink cartridges, the maintenance of printers) and textbooks. Implementing a cloud system will help to centrally store all records efficiently and house learning materials. Building a digital e-library is another way to save money on physical books.
‘Blended’ or ‘hybrid’ learning – a combination of in-classroom and online study – is seen as the way forward as it not only brings about cost benefits, but also boosts student engagement. And with the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI), there are many software products in the market that schools can purchase to automate manual processes such as scheduling classes and sending emails.
And in today’s environmentally conscious world, making some choice changes can make a significant difference to local communities. From recycling textiles and plastic bottles to electronic equipment and metal, there are a number of things that schools can do to cut back on waste and actually make some money in the process. Adopting the 3Rs motto – ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ – will not only help financially but it will instil the importance of protecting our environment in pupils, which will have far-reaching beneficial consequences.
Cost saving measures for schools and trusts
Another area to consider is renting out part of the school’s premises to local organisations and groups for them to use for their purposes outside of school hours. Examples might include sports facilities such as a running track or swimming pool or even a theatre that could be hired out to local drama groups. School halls or grounds for a range of local events, fairs and craft markets could be another viable option. Renting out car parking spaces would also have the added benefit of reducing congestion.
Having an efficient and fit for purpose payroll system and choosing the right software is vital given that staffing costs are a school’s biggest expenditure. By monitoring teacher salaries, expenses, working hours, holidays and overtime, a reliable in-house system or external payroll solution can provide greater visibility on the key HR and staffing metrics so that resources can be optimised and any overspending quickly identified. Upskilling teachers in areas such as Portable Appliance Testing (PAT), fire safety training, special needs support or counselling can also help to reduce costs.
Partnering with an external provider for all supply or cover teaching recruitment requirements will also bring spending down considerably and is an option to think about. Providing a technology-powered customised platform will enable your school to have access to a database of teaching and support staff who have been screened and vetted to the highest of standards. Typically, these providers can also offer a range of other services, for example, they can manage all other agencies for you as well as take care of payroll, timesheets and other related administration.
It’s a difficult time for schools and trusts who are being stretched to the limit financially as a result of mounting energy and food bills as well as increasing teacher pay. It is forcing head teachers and school leaders to make some tough decisions as they seek to balance their budgets. And with the cost of living crisis and inflation not going away any time soon, finding savings will be a top priority for cash-strapped schools who will need to use all their creativity to do more with less.
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