I started my job as a School Business Manager in a primary school in September 2012. I had no background in primary education, other than being a mom of primary school aged children, but I did have over 20 years’ experience working in higher education and dealing with public sector funding.
As a result I came into my role having researched what being an Academy as opposed to a Maintained School actually meant. In a nutshell my approach was that the Headteacher should be freed up to manage the teaching and for me to manage ‘the business’. With my priority to be around income generation, either through grants, costs savings, joint procurement, reducing wastage etc.
Prior to conversion the school was running with an in year deficit that was eating into a small surplus at the bank and a building that was looking old, tired and in disrepair.
Since then I have secured over £500,000 in additional grants; made £66,000 in cost savings year on year; ensured £5-10,000 allowances are reclaimed year on year; have a £174,000 cash reserve for emergencies; £72,000 surplus at the bank (in addition to the reserve); £50,000 in year budget surplus (despite £32,000 reduction in GAG in 16/17).
The above has allowed for the install a new Security system – electronic gates, CCTV system, perimeter fencing (increasing security and categorised as Outstanding by Ofsted); New Nursery, Foundation Stage and KS1 playgrounds; A Specialist maths room; Projector and sound system in the hall; Replacement roof; Replace computers in ICT suite, Staff and pupil Ipads, Prometheans in classrooms; Allotment; Sensory room, library, training room, office.
One of my finest achievements being securing funding for a new state of the art eco-friendly Nursery and outdoor area, which has become a showcase for the school and the envy of others.
Having not come into my role bogged down with the history of being in a maintained school and the ties to the local authority, I have made many costs savings by no longer purchasing services from the LA. Previous assumptions that the ‘LA were the cheapest’ have proved to be false. For example, I recently managed the process for a group of schools to leave the LA Energy Framework and used the services of a utilities broker who secured reductions against the LA prices of up to 28% on Gas, up to 33% on Electric and had a water audit undertaken which identified savings of up £6000 per year. Talk about flushing money down the loo! We literally had.
I sought out alternative caterers when the LA food service contract was up for renewal and saved £16,000 by moving to a new provider. A further £1500 was saved leaving the LA broadband contract, £4000 leaving the premises contract. Savings were made simply by cutting out the middle man ie the LA.
I have made further savings on photocopying, DECs, sickness insurance, maintenance by negotiating group discounts on behalf of my network of schools
Moving our HR consultancy services away from the LA and to a law firm has meant I can deal with staffing issues quickly and not put up with long protracted issues, Union delaying tactics or expensive compromise agreements.
Working with an excellent architect to support me in securing Conditional Improvement Fund Grants has seen a vast improvement in the look and feel of the school. This together with securing other additional grants from charitable organisations has ensured the school can think out of the box and encourage learning through fun activities and not simply classroom based teaching.
I am lucky enough that I am allowed the time at work to seek out and apply for grants. It’s a real buzz, like winning the lottery, irrespective of whether it’s £200 or £200,000. I get a great deal of job satisfaction from securing grants and as a result have helped other schools out in my own time on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis in addition to being asked by the utility brokers to act as a consultant to schools. So far I am well on my way to having helped other schools secure £1,000,000 in additional funding/savings.
However, I have no intention on sitting back and coasting in the knowledge of a healthy bank account. With year on year cuts expected I continue to look to the future and I have several ideas on how to establish a regular income stream for the school.
I have been in my role now over 4 years and I continue to be passionate and enthusiastic in my job. Despite hints from others of ‘pinching’ me I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my Governors and can’t imagine being anywhere else. I am proud that I am making a difference and taking care of ‘the business’, as taking care of the business impacts on the education of our children. I couldn’t ask for a better job.
For further information on income generation or utilities savings please email [email protected]
To hear more money-saving case studies from academies, speakers and exhibitors, register for your free pass to The Academies Show London 2017 on April 26th here.
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