Public sector austerity measures, imposed since 2010, have resulted in significant changes to the local authority landscape. Schools and academies, however, are to a large extent only just feeling the financial pinch, and are facing tough decisions on how to deal with this.
Although education funding fared relatively well up to 2015 (3% in real terms according to the IFS) the quantum is now under intense scrutiny. Rising pupil numbers alongside spending pressures such as increases in pay, pensions and national insurance contributions are causing significant financial concern for schools and academies. The Department for Education estimates that between 2015 and 2020, schools and academies will need to find savings of £3bn (equivalent to an 8% real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding) to counteract cumulative cost pressures.
The cry that there is not enough funding to support basic provision is one that is echoed across the public sector, however the status of education and the implications of the UK falling behind in international league tables may give it added credence.
There are a range of possibilities and some will be more pertinent that others; these include:
Some of the key considerations in any commercial enterprise are:
Governance and potential conflicts of interest for separate trading companies should be carefully considered. Having to make decisions on an issue that benefits the academy but doesn't benefit the company could lead to conflicts and poor judgement.
There are many success stories out there, but there are also those where things haven’t gone quite so well. Planning, planning and planning again is the absolute key to getting it right!
Many public sector organisations are coming up with new and original ideas to generate income, for example the Grant Museum of Zoology, in London, decided its quirky setting was the perfect location to stage stand-up comedy gigs – or how about a museum where you can try your hand at taxidermy or visit ‘lawnmowers of the rich and famous’?
On the other side of the pond, schools in the USA are much further down the commercial line than in the UK – and although this is (at present) unlikely to catch on here, it’s interesting to see their strategy. A well-known burger chain, for example, is sponsoring school report cards; the higher the pupils' grades, the better the fastfood reward. Or how about having a soft drinks company sponsor all school lockers by emblazoning their logos and adverts across the whole cabinet? Schools in Canada that held real casino nights were pocketing thousands of dollars, and despite the Archbishop's disapproval were reluctant to cease this venture because it raised an estimated $6m in 18 months.