Most schools can't afford Covid costs, survey finds

School business managers are having to work long hours to cope with the demands of the crisis, survey reveals

John Roberts

Coronavirus: The majority of schools do not have money in their budgets to cope with the extra costs caused by Covid-19, a new survey of school business managers reveals

The majority of schools do not have enough money in their budget to allow for the extra costs caused by Covid-19, a survey of school business managers reveals.

In a poll of more than 1,500 staff, 57 per cent said their school budget for 2020-21 was not adequate to cope with the impact of the coronavirus.

And nearly half of school business managers said their work had a negative impact on their mental health during the first four months of the crisis.

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And almost a third of those surveyed have been working more than 11 unpaid hours of overtime a week.

This is an increase of 87 per cent on the proportion working this amount of overtime before the pandemic.

Coronavirus: The pressure on school business managers

The survey, carried out by The Key school information service, with more than 1,550 school business managers in England, reveals that “health and safety management” was in the top three most time-consuming and challenging parts of the role.

Regarding the pressure on school budgets, one business manager told The Key: “There have been huge additional costs for hygiene supplies, cleaning, additional stationery and pencil cases, plus we had to financially support the catering contractor.” 

Last week the Association of School and College Leaders warned that schools may be unable to provide catch-up learning because they have been forced to use government funds to plug the hole in finances left by implementing Covid safety measures.

Commenting on the new survey findings, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union said: "Throughout this crisis school business leaders have been the quiet heroes.

"In the face of immense challenges, they have been crucial to helping to make sure schools can deliver all that has been asked of them.

“The stress of trying to find ways to make an already tight budget stretch that little bit further to meet the costs of making schools safe places cannot be underestimated. It’s such an important job and schools are being given so little help from the government.

“NAHT has long called for a national pay scale for school business leaders which brings them into alignment with other school leaders, recognising the value they bring to the system, and delivering parity and equity.”

Nicola West Jones, head of market research at The Key, said: “With Covid-19 changing the way a school can operate, health and safety management has been thrust into the spotlight.

"Despite this only forming one part of the school business manager role – and very few having prior experience of it – school business managers have suddenly found themselves in charge of implementing complex, and continually evolving, government policies that are critical to the safe running of the school.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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