CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Guardian
Schools facing budget cuts are hosting weddings, setting up nurseries and laying on community fitness classes to try to bring in additional money to boost their finances, according to a new study.
A survey by The Key Support of just under 1,200 school leaders found that 42% were letting buildings and facilities to raise money, 13% were building partnerships with local businesses and 10% were opening on-site nursery provision.
One headteacher of a primary school in Kent claimed to be able to make up to £300,000 a year from additional fundraising initiatives.
“Schools have to look at themselves as businesses, the leaders as entrepreneurs who think creatively about what opportunities they can capitalise on,” said Stuart Pywell, head of St Stephen’s junior school in Canterbury, Kent.
“As well as setting up daycare provision and paid-for breakfast and after-school clubs, we also rent out our school hall most nights of the week for anything from church groups to weddings, birthday parties or language schools.”
The survey will raise concerns as pressure grows on budgets about a potential growing divide between schools in more affluent areas, who are able to raise additional funds from wealthier parents and neighbourhood businesses, and those in more disadvantaged areas.
“We have the expertise and experience to generate additional income,” said one headteacher of a school in south-west England, “but in the deprived area we operate from and in a 1950s building there are very few opportunities available to us. We do fundraise from parents and a community with little income, but making ends meet will be an uphill struggle.”
Just over seven out of 10 (72%) of those who took part in the survey, which was conducted by the Key, an organisation providing leadership support to nearly half of the schools in England, said they were not confident their schools would be able to generate additional income over the next two years.
Only eight per cent of school leaders surveyed expected either to achieve a surplus or balance their budget without making savings in the next year. More than two-thirds (68%) said they planned to cut support staff and 37% expected to reduce teaching posts.
Of those schools having to make savings, 49% said they were restricting the use of basic resources such as stationery. Almost a third (31%) said there would be bigger class sizes; a quarter reported they would offer fewer extracurricular activities including school trips and one in five said budget cuts would mean a narrower curriculum being offered.
To save money, 25% of schools said they were linking up to share catering and cleaning contracts; 21% others were sharing curriculum resources while some reported sharing staff, furniture and minibuses to save money. Just over half (51%) said budget pressures and lack of funding was the biggest challenge for the coming year, compared with 31% of those surveyed last year.
Fergal Roche, the chief executive of the Key, said: “In every area, from staffing to stationery, school leaders are having to make difficult decisions about where to cut and restrict resources to balance their budgets, and it’s clear they anticipate further financial challenges ahead.
“While the school funding system should not rely on entrepreneurial efforts in schools to make ends meet, we have seen more and more school leaders looking for ways to generate extra income and make better use of their funding.”