The challenges of school budgeting
The elements involved in drawing up a school budget, balancing income and expenditure, and ensuring that there is enough capital to drive the school development plan, are varied and complex. Furthermore, a lot of juggling is required to guard against shortfall, as well as clarity of reporting to fulfil statutory accountability requirements.
The main element of a school’s budget lies in the allocation of funding based on pupil numbers. This represents 90% of a school’s overall income. However this allocation is typically boosted by such things as the Pupil Premium for disadvantaged children, Sixth Form and High Needs Top ups, devolved capital for Academies and private income from lettings and other entrepreneurial initiatives.
Staffing costs usually represent up to 85% of a school’s expenditure, with premises’ costs running to up to 12%. Out of the remainder of a school’s allocation the finance manager needs to ensure costs such as asset management and ICT development can be covered, as well as any expenditure associated with raising pupil attainment, OFSTED improvements, and Local Authority or Central Government Plans.
Operational costs for utilities, cleaning, repairs and maintenance, insurance and other Service Level Agreements also need to be catered for.
A school does have a number of opportunities to improve the value for money it can achieve in terms of teaching allocation, curriculum breadth, teacher and staff absence cover and the size of the non-teaching workforce. All of these elements can contribute to budgetary alterations that are within the control of the school.
For example, at one Swindon secondary school the SBM made good use of her background in and passion for catering to achieve a 600% increase in lunch time takings. Such entrepreneurial flair will be increasingly required if schools are to improve their budgetary circumstances.