Save money in your primary school with 10 ways to do more for less with your school budget. From primary school procurement regulations and free school meals, to using your school buying frameworks.

If you’ve read our primary school budget breakdown or are a primary budget stakeholder, you’ll know schools are having to work harder than ever to save money.

The sad truth is that saving money is hard; 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 save money – without sacrificing the things that matter – we’ve put together  top 10 ways to save money. So don’t start scrimping and scraping for pennies until you’ve read this post.

Primary school money saver: 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.

There's no silver bullet for school budgets, and you shouldn't need to scrimp and scrape. We've talked to Headteachers & experts to create a guide to help with your budget, without sacrificing the things that matter

CPD and school strategy free

A Headteacher's Guide to Maximising Your Primary School Budget

Includes insights on raising and saving money; from using business in the community for a free school makeover, to saving thousands on your intervention system

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 gov education website 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.

You can find out how schools are saving more than 40% via new framework for printers by visiting the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) website or by reading about what the NAHT have to say.

Primary school money saver: census days

As a school, you should make sure everyone knows how important census days are. Core funding is based on autumn census returns and so are ESG allocations, plus pupil premium allocations are based on spring census returns and UIFSM is based on average pupil numbers.

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.

Primary school money saver: sustainability

Sustainability is a long-term money saver for any school. Consider what practical ways have you considered to become more sustainable whilst at the same time saving money? How can you reduce your carbon emissions? Are you 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. Visit this website for 28 pages of ideas related to sustainability.

Primary school money saver: use your site

Are you making the most of your school site? Every school has the potential to generate money 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?

Primary school saver: smart staffing

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

Also, how good is your school at hiring volunteers? Are there some services that individuals or companies would provide for free or on a voluntary basis?  Is your ICT manager only needed one or two days a week? This can help you out financially and give other schools much needed resources.

Primary school money saver: advertising

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.

Primary school money saver: per-pupil funding

How good is your marketing plan? If you aren’t oversubscribed, are you utilising social media to attract more pupils. Higher pupil numbers means you will receive more funding.

For more on maximising your per pupil funding, download our free guide to maximising your primary budget.

Primary school money saver: free school meals

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 Premiums are a significant source of funding for schools so make sure you ask parents to claim their FSM.

Primary school money saver: bring services 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.

Primary school money saver: make the switch

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.

Text and email communications to parents, pupils and staff definitely save money and of course time.

There are lots of ways you can save money and a great place to see what other schools have done is by watching any of these 20 archived videos.

Find out more about our low cost, high impact, and cost effective school Maths programme by visiting our Schools Page

Plus, for more on primary school leadership, read our blog: ‘Confessions of a Primary Headteacher: The Secret to School Leadership’.

John Dabell , Teacher , Former School Inspector

A former school inspector with a background in teaching and education, John frequently writes for the Third Space blog on a variety of topics.