Last year was a difficult one for the majority of schools. Funding, or lack of it, created enormous problems and led to difficult decisions having to be made. There are schools that have used their reserves from previous years to achieve a year-end balance. These schools will find it more difficult in 2004 and may have only postponed decisions.
Already there are financial consultants warning that schools may find the funding inadequate if the estimated 3.4 per cent rise in their costs for 20045 proves to be under-estimated. We shall have to wait and see which argument is correct. Yet, there is an avenue to be followed that would put the funding where it should be: in schools, and not in the hands of the education authorities. Direct funding to schools would eliminate the top slicing of education funding and give schools far more than they currently receive. It cannot be impossible to establish a national formula that would be fair to all schools. Of course the standard of financial management in many schools would have to improve and long-term strategic financial planning would need to become a requirement. School workforce reform, although desperately under-funded in 2003, has been seen as an opportunity in many schools and there is an increasing number of case studies available demonstrating the success of the positive approach that these schools have adopted, (www.remodelling.org). The recognition of the skills of Bursars and other members of the support staff has improved the worklife balance for many headteachers and teaching staff. So maybe there is a need to bring these ideas together: direct funding to schools, a national funding formula, an improved standard of financial management with supportive training and further reforms of the school workforce.
Could these bring about an improved financial situation in our schools, or do we have to see the continuous battle every year, which detracts from the provision of education?
National Bursars Association
140 Wood Street