Budget submitted, but is it realistic?

I hope so!

Yesterday I submitted my budget to Governors ready to meet with them in 10 days time, hopefully for them to agree it. I’ve lost count of the amount of alterations I made to it whilst I cobbled it together, with updates coming out from the DfE and the LA (we are are a foundation special school) over the Easter break.

There is so much talk from education professionals at the moment about the lack of school funding, whilst others say some schools are just not managing their budgets well enough. Now the budget is submitted, I have sat back and given it some thought, and here is my take on it.

Last financial year we had the increased teachers pay. I don’t in any way begrudge this, our teachers are fantastic and work hard with some very challenging students – the pay grant did not meet our additional costs. Not our fault.

From April our support staff costs increased considerably due to the increased minimum wage and living wage. We follow the Kent Scheme meaning that our learning support assistants went from a FTE of £15628 to £17188. Overnight. The vast majority of our staff fall into this bracket as we have 30 classes and some classes may have 3 or 4 LSA’s in. We received no additional funding for this. Our staffing is just about where it should be for a PSCN special school at 85% of our income. The increased costs are not our fault.

We use The Education People (a trading arm of Kent County Council) for licencing support, catering checks and many other things. They increased their charges by 3.5% knowing we had a flat cash settlement again. Not our fault.

I have been advised that power costs will increase considerably this year, perhaps by 10%. Not our fault.

Teachers Pension increases have been fully funded, this year. The LA have told us to predict this for the following two years.

I have managed to put together a balanced budget. In year one we need to make sure we keep our numbers up – at present luckily we have a queue of children waiting for a place! Realistically we are full, but as happened over the holidays we can tragically lose one and immediately our money for that child stops. Whilst I have a small cushion, if we don’t fill that place with a child with similar needs the amount we receive is less.

Every order that is made is scrutinised, every invoice thoroughly checked, every contract up for renewal is checked for value.

Years two and three are also showing a positive balance, after reducing training costs, keeping student numbers high and tweaking smaller budgets by reducing them.

My plea to the government would be this. My Headteacher and I are working so hard to educate some of the most vulnerable children in society. Our budget hasn’t increased but our costs have. It isn’t about us spending more money on a deliberate basis, but by being affected by costs that we have little or no control over. We are not asking for extra money in 2020/21 and 2021/22 for frivolous things, but just to run our school and keep our pupils happy, safe and as successful as they can be.

This isn’t a moan, it is a statement of fact. It is trying to explain what it is like on the ground. I just hope somebody out there starts to listen.

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