How To Save Costs On Your Primary School Budget: 10 Money Saving Ideas To Take To Your School Business Manager

Balancing the books in a primary school budget is hard. Ask any School Business Manager. In a time of cuts, austerity and national debt, schools are often the front line for families and children in need, but they lack the financial resources to be able to help.

If you’re a headteacher or school business manager looking in despair at what the future holds for your budget, you’re not the only one. Schools across the country are having to work harder than ever to save money.

The sad truth is that schools are facing some of the steepest cuts since the 1970s. Headteachers are having to do more with less, and standards are getting tougher.

To help your school make its limited school budget stretch as far as possible – without sacrificing the things that matter – we’ve put together a list of suggestions you might want to consider in order to get the very most from your limited resources.

1. Biggest school budget wins are from procurement

Assess contracts for in school

Undoubtedly you already know procurement is a big one. To save money, every school should be reviewing their contracts at least annually. Consider having a regular agenda item at senior leadership management meetings to look over the finances and performance against budget. Focus on the most important contracts such as cleaning, catering, insurance, and electricity and zoom in.

You should always keep a close eye on when contracts come up for renewal and be wary that renew automatically and then tie you in for lengthy periods. Also think about whether contracts are still fit for purpose or serve the needs of your school.

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If you’re unsure whether a contract is still fit for purpose, value for money, and serving the needs of your school, consider these questions looking at what other schools are doing or run a benchmarking exercise. Visit the government’s Schools Financial Benchmarking site to get started.

Check primary school procurement regulations

As primary school procurement spending comes from public money, your school must adhere to basic procurement regulations. This safeguards your school and funds, ensuring they are spent in a fair and open way.

Obviously, make sure procurement decisions are just and transparent. Making ineffective decisions or failure to conform with procurement legislation could end in legal challenges from suppliers and cancelled contracts. This, in turn, will lead to financial penalties which are hugely expensive and will tarnish your school’s CV.

Increase your primary school’s purchasing power

To increase your buying power and save money, form buying groups or join an e-procurement site. Procurement sites can also help you achieve value for money as they encourage fair competition between suppliers.

This of course is where multi academy trusts can have an advantage. But if you are an academy at a trust and looking to purchase an intervention make sure the rest of the trust know as there might be savings to be had. Third Space are always happy to develop packages across a MAT for KS2 maths interventions.

Third Space Lesson Slide
Here at Third Space Learning, we have online virtual lessons created by a team of maths pedagogy experts that are regularly quality-assured to meet the needs of students.

You can find out how schools are saving more than 40% via new framework for printers by visiting the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) website.

2. Know when census days are for primary schools

As a school, you should make sure everyone knows how important census days are. Core funding for local authority schools and the general annual grant for academies is based on the autumn census returns; pupil premium allocations are based on spring census returns as is UIFSM the universal infant free school meals grant.

Ensure that children are in school on census days or you school will suffer financially. Unbelievably, schools do not actually receive money for the number of pupils on roll but only for the number of children physically in school on census day. Aim for 100% attendance on census days.

3. Start early on your applications for EHCPs

It is often the case that a child with additional needs places additional demands on the school budget, whether through the need to have one-to-one adult support, or assistive technology or infrastructure changes. This is why, with an Education, Health and Care Plan, a child may receive additional funding to contribute towards the cost of their extra needs.

Anyone who’s been through the application process for an EHCP knows that it can take a very long time, so, as you would ordinarily, get to know children and their families early on in their time at the school so you can identify any needs early.

This way you can start the application early on, and this save money from the general school budget which you will otherwise need to use to support the child with additional needs yourself.

4. Put sustainability at the heart of your school budget

Sustainability is a long-term money saver for any school. Consider what practical ways you have considered to become more sustainable whilst at the same time saving money? How can you reduce your carbon emissions? Are your school projectors cost efficient?

If you aren’t using sensor technology (e.g. motion-activated lights), then it could be worth the investment in the money you will save long-term.

Your old boiler may still be working but is it in fact costing more to run than it would if you replaced it and massively reduced your running costs over the next ten years. The benefit of this is you’ll often find that there are grants or additional local authority funding for capital projects like this.

5. Location location location – make it work for you

Are you making the most of your school site? Every school has the potential to generate and save money for the school budget by providing some part of its site or facilities for use.

Sports facilities, rooms and hall spaces can be hired out for one off events or classes. Consider looking around for scout groups, training sessions, evening classes, parties, or business meetings that need local space. Also think about if the car park be utilised as a charged car parking space for local events? Car boot sales?

This is particularly pertinent over the school holidays when a building that can accommodate hundreds of children and staff can lie empty when it could be being put to use. Work with your premises manager to see if they’ve got ideas and what they think about how much additional work it would take to open in the holidays.

6. Share your school staff instead of losing them

Is it possible that you could make savings on your school budget by working with neighbouring schools so that you share some services? Look carefully at the expertise you have in school and consider whether you could outsource their skills to another school.

None of us wants to lose our school librarians, ICT managers and music teachers but all too often these enrichment or specialist services are the ones we cut. Instead we recommend that you work with them to negotiate part time contracts, perhaps supporting them to find their additional days work at other schools.

7. Make use of volunteers

Related to the staffing issue, think about what skills and talents you might have among your school community as this is a great way to save money in school.

Do you have parents who could be persuaded to volunteer? Do you have parents with expertise who could support volunteers or even children to taken on certain roles. Local companies are often also a great source of young and willing volunteers who enjoy making a contribution to the community and there are plenty of useful tasks they could do.

Take inspiration from Parklands school in Leeds where not only do they get all their painting done for free but Christmas hampers and regular volunteers save the school hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

Many primary school receptions depend on their pupil receptionists during the lunch hour and children love being given responsibility for the library as junior librarians or digital leaders.

8. How to save money for your staff advertising and recruitment budget in school

In a time of such shrinking school budgets it’s always been a surprise how much schools are still prepared to pay to go down the old fashioned advertise in TES route. There are now so many other ways to promote your school vacancies, both for staff and for pupils indeed. Here are just a few to think about:

  • make your school known for a specific aspect of its approach and invite other teachers and SLT from other schools in to learn from you. This gives you a reputation both in and out of the local authority.
  • use social media as a shop window for your school. There’s no need to be on every platform but pick one and use it to share what’s great about your school. This way you’ll build up an audience, so that, when the time comes, you’ll have people who can share your recruitment message.
  • use the hashtag #teachingvacancyuk on Twitter and be instantly connected to any twitter educator who is looking for a new challenge. for You might be spending a small fortune on advertising your school. Take a step back and think again about its value. Do you need to advertise if you are over-subscribed.

9. Keep on top of any falling roll issues

Your school budget depends on having all the seats in every classroom filled so what are you doing if they’re not? Of course population dips can occur and, some years you’ll find lots of local schools sharing the same fate, but, you should know when this is likely to occur and plan for it.

Again, social media is a great way to attract more pupils. But it’s also worth finding out from other parents what their friends are saying about the school. Check any google or facebook reviews and where there are negative ones, at least know about the issue, and make it an active decision to respond or ignore. You need to be managing the message rather than just letting it go on without you.

10. Fill in those free school meals forms

Make sure your school has as many eligible pupils as possible on for free school meals, remember pupil premium funding is based on the number of pupils who qualify for them.

Since the Universal Infant School Meals (UISM) initiative was launched the number of parents registering for pupil premium has dropped by as much as 50% for some schools.

Pupil Premium is a significant source of funding for schools so make sure you ask parents to claim their FSM.

Sometimes there can be a stigma about applying for free school meals so we recommend you ask every parent to fill in a Free School Meals form whether likely to qualify or not.

11. Look at the services you could bring in house

This could be something as simple as signing the caretaker up for a PAT training course. You will of course have to buy the necessary equipment but you’ll be saving money on PAT tests every year.

12. Go digital to make the most of your school budget

Is your school still wasting money on paper and printing supplies? If you haven’t made the switch to text and email communications yet then you are wasting thousands of pounds every year.

Surveys, permission forms, letters home, all these can be sent much more efficiently and more cheaply online. Just make sure you take the time to choose the most appropriate software service for your school community and make it clear that individuals can still request paper if necessary.

13. Look at your school budget professional development allocation

Every school leader knows (or should do) that the aspect of school that most closely correlates to pupil progress is great teaching. But great teaching takes training and practice and development. So if there’s one thing not to scrimp when looking at how your school can save money on it’s professional development. There are however lots of ways you can get affordable and even free CPD for Teachers:

  • Youtube is full of fantastic videos from organisations like College of Teaching or from expert teachers and researchers like Doug Lemov or Daisy Christodolou
  • Similarly signpost your staff to the old Teacher TV videos – a lot of these are just as pertinent today.
  • Share news of and then support and accommodate teacher attendance remotely or in person at events like Primary Rocks or ResearchEd
  • Take a look at the CPD available for free from many companies even just as trials. Third Space has some excellent maths CPD videos here.

And then finally, make sure you know what other sources of funding you have for your school budget. Whether you’re receiving your Dedicated Schools Grant from the local authority or the General Allocation Grant as an academy, there are also additional ringfenced budget items such as:

  • early years funding
  • national non domestic rates (NNDR)
  • pupil premium
  • PE and sport premium for primary schools
  • universal infant free school meals
  • high needs top-up funding for 2019 to 2020
  • year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium
  • teachers’ pay grant

Details of all of these can be found on education pages.

Schools who choose Third Space Learning’s 1-to-1 primary maths interventions do so in the knowledge that their pupils are being taught by maths specialists who understand the KS2 curriculum inside out and have been trained to teach towards developing mastery in Maths.

“Having 18 children doing a Third Space session at the same time at £16 per child is more cost-effective than hiring a mid-range teacher for a day a week to work with individual pupils.” Former Headteacher, Trent Primary School

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Learn about our experience with schools or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


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