Support Advice hub BEAT BUDGET STRESS

Managing a school budget is challenging at the best of times. Doing so during a pandemic has simply exacerbated stress levels. Richard Page provides tips for taking back control in 2021


mong the main causes of stress at work are increased workload, poor communication, lack of job control, impending or recent

changes, and balancing the budget. Covid has had a big impact on all these areas. One of the biggest issues for schools is

the additional expenditure required to pay for supply staff to cover those isolating or absent through stress and anxiety. At the same time, many schools have seen their income reduced as they’ve been restricted in hiring out facilities. As a result, budgeting presents a whole new set of challenges. However, there are a range of tools and

techniques available out there that can help mitigate the pressures. Firstly, plan for the unexpected. Prepare a range of budget scenarios that you can adopt through the year, as and when required. If all these planning scenarios have been agreed with your SLT and governors then you can be assured that you have a solid plan B, C or D to fall back on. You can remove nagging doubts by

ensuring you have a reliable and accurate budgeting tool. Many schools opt for free spreadsheets, but this approach does come with fl aws. Spreadsheets are prone to inaccuracies because a simple formatting or formula error can be hard to trace and correct. A cloud-based tool, which comes with training and support, will provide greater peace of mind – not just currently, but in the event of a future business continuity problem.

Lastly, monitor your budgets closely.

Ultimately, this involves reconciling your year-to-date income and expenditure with your forecast income and expenditure. This will give you a projected end-of-year forecast. School Business Services (SBS) has

published a brief budget-monitoring guide, which offers some useful tips. These include implementing a comprehensive payroll reconciliation process that will help you to identify unreliable staffi ng forecasts, as well as any incorrect payments. You can also project year-end balances early in the year to reassure you that your fi nances are on track and your budget plan is accurate. And, if it isn’t, it will give you more time to adopt plan B.

■ Richard Page is head of software & ICT services at SBS, a specialist provider of budgeting, fi nance, MIS and ICT services to schools. The budget monitoring guide is available to download at: schoolbusinessservices. company-news/

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