Making your school’s resources go further

Written by: Nina Siddle | Published:
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A new report has highlighted possible savings that schools could make to help stretch their budgets further in these difficult times. School business director Nina Siddle explains how simple changes introduced at her school have saved precious time and money

School leaders have been working with reduced budgets for a number of years so many will have already found new ways of doing things that are more cost and time-effective. Others will have cut a little bit here, a little bit there and will be thinking, “what more can we possibly do?”.

Either way, a new report from the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) is worth a very close read because there are some excellent suggestions in there for using resources more effectively.

Over the years, we have made some significant changes that have saved us money and time, many of which are highlighted in the report. Even small changes can have a big impact – we are looking to save around £500 a year by negotiating free money transfers and payments with our bank, for instance. It doesn’t sound a lot, but that’s money that could pay for invaluable extra resources – buying books, for example, or bringing in guest speakers.

In many cases though it is more important to know how to effectively redirect existing resources. One of the suggestions in the report, which we have already implemented at our school, is using ICT to log behavioural issues. There will be some schools out there that still rely on teachers writing up reports on paper.

This presents a problem if there is a second incident of bad behaviour with the same child, but with a different teacher. If the two teachers don’t know about each other’s incident, the way it is recorded may have to be changed later in the day, creating more work. Ensuring a computer log of behaviour is made circumvents this meaning the incident can be logged properly right away and, if necessary, escalated at the right time.

Another way we save time, also suggested in the report, is by not using email to communicate with staff. We have found email often causes more work and is ineffective, mainly because teachers don’t always log on to computers to check emails – especially if they are taking a lesson.

If emails aren’t read or noticed, extra time is spent chasing staff to alert them. Instead we send urgent messages via the classroom electronic whiteboards (discreetly, if necessary) so teachers are made aware instantly that they need to contact the office or pass a message to a child for example.

We have also implemented a system that enables us to use our teaching assistants more effectively, ensuring we’re able to quickly provide additional support where it is needed.

In years gone by, we would have had a teaching assistant for every class which meant that if we needed additional support within the classroom, we would struggle to find that resource.

Now we have moved to a system where teaching assistants provide support to specific year groups, meaning they’re not tied to one class.

The ability to be flexible with regards to positioning teaching assistants has been absolutely invaluable in making our existing resources go further, but it is also helping to raise academic standards. For example, we run maths catch-up sessions using teaching assistants. Pupils may have had a lesson they didn’t completely understand – in that case, we can pull the child out in the afternoon and have a teaching assistant reinforce the lesson on a one-to-one basis. This means the teacher does not have to slow the lesson down and means the child will come back to subsequent lessons at the same level as everyone else.

Professional development is another area identified in the report where time savings can be made and one where we have made significant progress. We found that there were lots of examples of best practice going on across our school that we felt could be shared with other staff, so we introduced our learning communities initiative which enables staff to sit in and observe lessons by other members of staff. And it’s not just teaching staff; a few years ago we invested in “train the trainer”, positive handling training for two teaching assistants, which means we now have two accredited people on site who can train all our other staff, saving us time and money in engaging an external provider to come in.

Even given the changes and savings we have made, we are constantly looking to the horizon to see what changes we can make to become more efficient.

School budgets are not going to get any easier to manage in the foreseeable future, so I would urge all school leaders to take note of NASBM’s findings and suggestions. Even if you spot just one suggestion that you can implement, it’ll be worth it.

  • Nina Siddle is the business director at Withernsea Primary Academy Trust in East Riding.

Further information

To download the full NASBM report, Guidance for Improving School Financial Outcomes, go to www.nasbm.co.uk/Resource/Sector-research.aspx


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