Financial shortfall and potential redundancies

Insight – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
Potential redundancies due to budget shortfall. The effect on staff morale. The impact on children’s learning. The impact on meeting requirements to raise standards. Satisfying all stakeholders that we are trying to provide an excellent service for all during trying financial times. The impact of not having a budgetary forecast beyond a year at a time.

What happened?
We put in place a plan to manage the potential redundancy situation in consultation with staff, unions and the LA – Advice and guidance was provided by each of these ‘players’. Increasingly schools’ budgets are in the red. How do we deliver excellence and a new curriculum when we are under resourced? Sadly, it appears we were not alone as other schools were and are facing similar dilemmas.

Fortunately, we were able to resolve the issue more by good luck than by good management!! Two maternity leaves helped us reduce our staffing budget as we were able to redeploy staff internally to cover. However, the knock on effect was to reduce our intervention strategies for supporting pupils with additional learning needs and some staff PPA cover was undertaken by teaching assistants – not ideal, especially as we were due an inspection visit by Estyn!

A restructuring of TAs duties and their willingness to reduce their hours on a voluntary basis also helped lower our staffing costs. Some welcome additional income from the LA also helped.

So, financially we managed to remain in the black but the collateral ‘damage’ in terms of supporting children, staff morale and well-being remain areas of concern.

What lessons were learnt?
Perhaps greater opportunities to share potential solutions with others in a similar boat would have been useful – having said that there were time constraints as we had to work fast to resolve our difficulties and there was a strict schedule to follow in order to comply with employment law!

All local authorities have a School Forum which was introduced to develop dialogue between local authorities and their schools on “budgetary issues, including school funding levels for the coming year, pressures on future years’ budgets, changes to local funding formulae, as well as reviewing contracts/service level agreements for services to schools.” Do you know who the members are in your area? Here is the link to Welsh Government guidance on best practice for this Forum.

Headteachers, governors and non-school members make up the membership of this forum.

Does your area have a Local Governor Association, where you can attend with governors to discuss local issues and share best practice? Further information can be found here.

Many schools work in clusters to share ideas and work collaboratively on specific areas. Cluster schools may even share staff, for example, a Business Manager. Have you thought about anything like this? You might like to share some innovative ways of working that your schools have developed in further case studies.

One of the main roles for the governing body is setting financial priorities for the school and monitoring expenditure against the school’s budget. The largest budget heading at school will invariably be staffing. Chapter 8 of The School Governor’s Guide to the Law provides a useful overview of managing the school’s budget.

Governors Cymru Services also has a guide on school finance which may be helpful. It includes information about the role of the finance committee, linking the budget with the School Development Plan, as well as questions that governors could ask when discussing and evaluating the school’s finances, plus additional reference material.

Many schools, sadly, have to face staff redundancy situations and will have a policy to follow for this. It is important to consider all other options before going down this route. Your Local Authority will also be able to advise on the processes to follow. There is a wealth of useful information available. Here is an example.

ACAS produce guidance on redundancy procedures and fair procedures, but the governing body must follow the steps within their own policy at the school.

How have financial shortages affected your school?
How would your GB go about evaluating the potential impacts of redundancies?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

Contact Us

01443 844532 / 029 2075 3685 [email protected]
Sam MacNamara – 07943 887275 / Jane Morris – 07957 969708