Schools that rely on hiring out their facilities to generate income could lose up to hundreds of thousands of pounds during the coronavirus outbreak, school business leaders have warned.
After the government announced that schools could claim up to £75,000 to cover extra costs during the pandemic from additional cleaning or provision for children eligible for free school meals, some have raised concerns over how schools will cope with lost revenue from hiring out their facilities.
Coronavirus: Schools get up to £75,000 for extra costs
Coronavirus: Free school meals vouchers available today
Background: Vouchers for FSM pupils backed by DfE
In a blog published yesterday, Stephen Morales, chief executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership, a leading body of school bursars and business managers, said that "it appears that the Treasury kitty has run dry" when it comes to provision for schools during coronavirus closures.
Noting that emergency funding was limited to cleaning, premises costs and free school meals, he said that "lost miscellaneous or trading income is also not covered by the grant".
Schools losing revenue in coronavirus shutdown
"This is of particular concern to schools that require non-grant income to prop up their budgets," he added.
Speaking to Tes, Mr Morales said some schools relied on hiring out facilities to support their budgets, with revenue of hundreds of thousands of pounds potentially lost during school closures.
"Some schools are very successful with their income generation and will generate hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that money will be propping up their budgets and supporting whatever ambition they have for the school," he said.
Some schools hired out their gym facilities to the community before or after school hours, or offered holiday clubs and exam preparation services as a way to support their income, he said.
Mr Morales added that said the Treasury had been generous regarding support for businesses and the self-employed, but needed to consider the financial implications for schools during closures.
"The kitty has run dry as a consequence of that," he said.
Mr Morales said that if schools needed support they had to make as strong a case as possible to the Department for Education because he suspected that "education is a little bit down the pecking order at the moment" in terms of funding priorities.
"It's going to be really difficult to get more money unless it’s going to be a complete game-changer," he said.
"Having said all that, if it means schools can’t operate or we risk being able to deliver important education provision in the not too distant future or risk caring for key workers or vulnerable children, then absolutely we want to make a strong case."
Mr Morales said schools should make clear how lost revenue would affect current and future provision – for example, whether they could employ staff, run interventions or support vulnerable children.
"Don’t make it in financial or percentage terms – it won’t cut through with the public or with ministers – but if you say, 'As a consequence of lost revenue I have to think carefully about the number of teachers I retain,' then that’s tangible and not an arbitrary figure," he said.
Commenting on the additional support set out by the government, Julia Harnden, funding specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This extra funding for schools is much-needed and very welcome at a time when they are incurring additional costs as a result of the coronavirus emergency.
"Schools obviously run on very tight budgets so it will give them reassurance that they will be able to recover the extra expenditure necessitated by this health crisis.
“However, the package that is announced today does not cover the loss of income which many schools earn from activities such as hiring out facilities. This can be quite a significant element of their finances. We are concerned about the impact this will have on budgets and we are continuing to discuss with the government how this might be addressed.”