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Spring is a time to balance the books

Jane Martin's monthly look at what

governors should have on their agendas

IT'S budget time, with the new financial year starting on April 1. The finance committee will be reconciling the school improvement plan priorities and staffing structure with the funds available. Can savings be made? How are any reserves being allocated? Are there any other sources of funds to support new initiatives?

Funding comes to the school in two ways: the school budget share, devolved from the education authority; and Standards Fund, specific grants from the Department for Education and Employment.

More delegated funding means all schools have increased responsibility for almost all services, and budgets to undertake them.

This year this must include catering (school meals), refuse collection, building repairs and maintenance, and other support services such as accountancy, payroll, personnel and purchasing usually provided by the education authority.

Governors need to apply "best value" principles to ensure they are getting value for money when buing in services. This means the best service at the best price, not necessarily the cheapest. Check out the four Cs: challenge - why do we need this service provided in this way; compare - look at other ways of providing the same service; consult - ask others what they think; and compete - review the current service against other providers.

More funding is coming via the Standards Fund, a lot of it match-funded by LEAs and "earmarked" by the Department for Education and Employment. Take advice about how you can use these grants. The single biggest category is for school improvement. Note that at least 5 per cent of this is for governor training. Also through the Standards Fund schools will be getting a capital grant for small building projects or to save towards bigger projects.

Other possible sources of funding include lottery money (from the New Opportunities Fund - website at www.nof.org.uk) for study support.

Remember the final budget must be approved by the full governing body.

Jane Martin is an education officer in Dudley

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