As the business manager of Hoyland Common Primary School, a single academy trust teaching school, Victoria Harrison provides financial management advice to schools in her local authority area. These tend to be local authority maintained primaries which are facing financial difficulties and may have budget deficits.
Victoria focuses on areas where she commonly finds scope for efficiencies. Her starting point is to ensure that a school has a clear view of its future cost pressures. This includes, for example, increases in employer pension contributions and making sure that budget planning factors in these costs.
In looking for efficiencies, Victoria advises schools to look first at non-staffing expenditure to identify savings. Photocopier costs are often an area where schools can make substantial efficiencies.
Victoria then looks at staffing. Typically, in primary schools she finds that the greatest scope for efficiencies is in how support staff are used. In contrast, the opportunities to find efficiencies in teaching staff are often more marginal due to the expectation of one teacher per class.
Often, Victoria can find areas for efficiencies by reviewing the working patterns of support staff. In many schools, she sees that support staff working patterns no longer match the needs of the schools. For example, part-time staff are not available to support key lessons or their time is not used effectively as they are on 35-hour week contracts but are not needed to work for all of this time. Moving support staff on to new working patterns can provide the school with better support for pupils.
To illustrate this, Victoria worked with a school that found savings of £45,000 by introducing a new structure for its support staff. This helped to turn a £12,000 deficit at the end of 2015 to 2016 into an £11,000 surplus that has carried forward to 2016 to 2017. The surplus will continue to grow once the new staff structure has been in place for a full financial year. The school not only saves money but also supports its pupils better because support staff are working where there is the greatest need.
If you’d like to find out more about the support that Hoyland Common is providing, you can contact Victoria Harrison.