Partners in funding

Working with others across your school can generate additional income and project buy in. Two school business professionals explain how

School business coach Laura Williams

Being an SBM can be lonely on a good day, let alone when you’re feeling the full weight of the financial pressures on your school. So it’s vital to remember that although you live and breathe those figures, financial management is a whole school responsibility.

You can analyse, report and research but the power of the staff body to be more efficient, make savings and achieve financial objectives is something that cannot be underestimated. Everyone can and should be contributing to this process. It’s just a matter of teaching them how.

Think about sharing financial information with your staff in a way that not only educates them on the headline school position but also helps them understand the impact of their financial requests and decisions beyond their own team or department. This can inspire and motivate them to contribute to improving the financial health of the school.

Every decision made in a school will have a financial implication. We know this as SBMs but we need to evidence it to staff. Here are my tips:

  • Make finance a topic of conversation by weaving financial management into regular meetings and discussions
  • Reference costings on key documents, such as your school development plan
  • Add finance updates to key meeting agendas every half-term
  • Do presentations to staff on inset days, share budget reports with team leaders and chat with them about what they mean, what’s been going on and what they might need
  • When staff come up with ideas, ask them if they have investigated the cost of implementation and set them the task of doing some basic research. The more finance is spoken about, the more familiar the topic will become and the more your staff will learn how to connect the numbers to the narrative of school improvement
  • Once a good level of financial understanding has been established as part of the culture in your school, you can work with staff on their ideas for how to improve value for money, create profitable partnerships with other stakeholders and plan ahead collaboratively to help fund bigger projects.

Having other staff contributing to the financial discussions will not only improve the financial picture, it will improve the quality of education provision. Meaningful conversations about finance will result in better decisions being made, which will have a direct impact on student outcomes and student lives.

School business manager Clare Skinner

I make a point of checking for grant opportunities every week. When I identify anything my school is eligible for, I email the relevant head of department or faculty leader with the details. I explain that I can complete the admin section and I highlight which section they would need to complete. We sometimes chat through the application criteria and the projects they have in mind, in case they are not sure what to write.

When the application is ready, I ask the headteacher to sign off on it before I submit it. I monitor the progress of our application and, if successful, I look out for the money landing in the bank. As soon as it does, I advise the relevant colleague and they start the project.

Here are some successes from both my current and previous secondary schools:

  • Working with students, the curriculum deputy head and the SEN team: We obtained a grant of £10,000 from the National Lottery to develop a smallholding on the school grounds. This was to offer a vocational qualification to students less academically able than others and to support behaviour management in the school. The funding was used to fence in the area safely, buy houses and hutches for animals and to maintain the smallholding for the first year, while the school built the ongoing costs into the budget.
  • Working with a member of the maths department: We were granted £456 from the Institute of Mathematics to fund participation in the UKMT primary school challenge for Year 5 pupils. The funding was used to purchase the resources, rewards, certificates and refreshments for the event. Our sixth form students used the event as an opportunity to take on a leadership role for 36 pupils from some of our feeder schools (who would eventually attend KNGS). We didn’t have the funds to run it from school budgets, so the grant meant we could add extra value to our students and those at other local settings, boosting our reputation in the local community.
  • Working with the head of music: We were awarded a grant of £720 by Universal Music UK to purchase an electric guitar and fusion drum kit for the school. The equipment was not affordable within the school budget, but it has enhanced the music department resources and increased access to different musical instruments for our students.
  • Working with our catering company: We wanted to replace a roof over the main school kitchen as it was leaking badly. There was asbestos in the ceiling void, which was at risk of being disturbed due to the leaks. We had all of the technical information and evidence required for a CIF bid to the ESFA and I then approached our catering consultancy company to support the bid. Their letter was included in the bid, highlighting the impact of the leaking roof on catering and the potential impact on the provision of catering to students. We received just over £188,000 and replaced the roof over an area of the school including the kitchen.

Further reading

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