Finding savings in a school by Phil Burton

Finding savings in a school by Phil Burton

Phil Burton is the School Business Manager at Hallbrook Primary School in Leicester; he tweets regularly from @RunningSBM. In this review, he looks at three cost-saving ideas that will hopefully help to improve your workload and operation within your school or setting.



We all fall into the same trap, replacing like-for-like when someone resigns. Whilst in some cases this may be a definite requirement, there are plenty of opportunities to be more efficient. Here are a few examples from my setting:

  1. When a Premises Officer resigned who worked 37 hours per week, the MAT looked at what was required across a number of academies and appointed the same hours working over two sites. This resulted in one school making a saving the equivalent to 19 hours per week. Everything continues to operate at a high standard and remains compliant.
  2. In another similar example, two schools employed SENDCos. After one retired, the remaining SENDCo worked across the two sites saving many hours per week.

The ICFP (Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning) documents are a great way of establishing the requirements for a school and to be able to pull together an ideal staffing plan which works towards the best possible learning experience, whilst keeping the books balancing.

Phil Burton saves money on school staffing


I often hear that it is not worth looking at small contracts as the time taken outweighs the saving. However, I disagree. Always take some time out to compare the market when it comes to contracts, you would be amazed at how costs vary across the sector.

Give yourself time to test the market, there are several products out there which will track your contracts and let you know when they are due. Send out the tender to different options including your current supplier. Give them a deadline to reply. Remember, once in, make sure you check the detail and go through your LGB (Local Governor Board) for approval.

I have recently completed this exercise for two contracts. One successfully reduced the costs by over 33% (roughly £1,000) and the second saved just £2 per month. But when considered over the 3-year term, it saved £72 which can go towards improving our wider curriculum that may not always get funding. 

Managing contracts and suppliers in schools


So… I don’t want for every job to be performed by robots, but there are opportunities to automate processes and re-invest the time saved. How many schools still don’t use a cashless system or BACs?

These types of systems can help you to regain time which can be invested into other processes or people. The move to a cashless system reduced our staffing levels in the main office by 0.5FTE and the change from cheques to BACs saved around 20 minutes each week, which over a year adds up to a lot of time.

There are lots of other ways to be more efficient – registration in class, dinner options made in class, email workflows for paperless systems, online parents evening and so on. There are lots that can be done to reduce time spent on tasks and therefore improve effectiveness in other areas such as income generation.

These are just three of the main areas that I have looked at to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the operations, but I’m sure there are plenty more. It would be great to hear more ideas from #SBLTwitter community


You can learn more about Phil Burton in his ‘My SBM Life’ article or by following him on Twitter @RunningSBM.