School business managers vital

9th April 2010 at 01:00

"This just shows that we need to get school business directors and school business managers in place," states Mick Brookes, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, presumably believing such people would stop the sort of financial debacle highlighted in your article last week: "When it costs #163;250k to buy a photocopier".

I am a school business manager working in an authority where one school has debts of more than #163;1 million and is struggling to sustain lease costs in excess of #163;250,000 a year.

One of the leasing companies providing services to this unfortunate school met with me when our photocopier contracts came up for re-negotiation. I soon became extremely concerned at its business practices, particularly its offer of "donations" rather than clear written quotes for services provided. I was so worried I contacted my local authority's finance department, which issued a warning to all schools to take expert advice before entering into leases.

Now the local authority has stated that schools with surpluses will have these clawed back to offset the deficit at the neighbouring school. So schools like my own, prudent and operating on predictive three-year budgets, will be penalised. If my forecasting is correct, we will be in deficit the year after next as we will not have the balance brought forward saved. We had attempted to plan and manage challenges such as reduced rolls and any cuts to local and national funding, but it seems possible that we will not be given the opportunity owing to the poor financial decisions of a headteacher in a neighbouring school who did not adhere to financial rules and regulations.

But I must take comfort from Mr Brookes, who seems to have had a radical change of heart. After all, a year ago he was stating in The TES that "every pound spent on a bursar or other admin staff is a pound that could have been spent on the curriculum" ("Cash woes see 'cheap' support staff on the up", May 15, 2009).

Name and address withheld.

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