Headteachers could be “shared” among schools to cut costs, report suggests

Headteachers could be shared among small schools to help them run more efficiently, a new report has revealed.

The finding forms part of a series of recommendations published by the Government this month.

The research follows a recent study which found that many small, rural schools are struggling to “overcome financial difficulties” and survive on “tight” budgets.

According to the new report, the two most common cost-cutting measures identified within smaller schools were to share roles between schools – in particular, the headteacher role – and to change the combination of senior and junior staff within teaching teams.

Researchers highlight that the main advantage around sharing the headteacher role was that by doing this the small rural primary schools involved could “fully utilise the expertise and experience of the individual headteacher”, while a handful of schools and trusts report that this could also result in savings for the schools involved.

The main disadvantage, however, was that another senior member of staff was required for those days when the headteacher was not available.

In a day to day role, the headteacher is responsible for guaranteeing the right level of expertise and experience to address potential safeguarding risks and manage unexpected situations. Therefore, days when the headteacher is not available these roles will need to be fulfilled by an equally-experienced teacher, whose salary could be comparative to that of the headteacher, negating any potential cost savings.

In terms of cutting costs where staff are not concerned, schools report that the most common practice was to “request quotes from available external suppliers regionally, compare the quotes received, and select the quote that represented the best value for money within affordability limits”.

However, due to the remoteness of some small, rural schools, the scope and availability of external suppliers is relatively low, often limiting trusts to just a few quotes.

Researchers also noted that “the findings on the extent to which small pupil numbers result in reduced economies of scale, such as failing to qualify for volume discounts, was mixed. Some of the participating schools and trusts secured volume discounts by joining up with other schools, including in the context of multi-academy trusts.

The report continues: “In contrast, a few participating schools and trusts said that there were also some discounts for small organisations, for example, where the number of software licence users remain under certain thresholds. Small rural primary schools might only secure such discounts while their pupil and staff numbers remained low.”

Gill Freeman, Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “It is vital that academies keep up to date with the latest school budget regulations.

“If you are unsure about anything regarding budget regulations and cost-cutting measures it is important that you seek specialist advice.”

To read the research document in full, please click here. For advice on any of the issues discussed in this blog, please get in touch with our expert academy finance and accounting team.

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