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Last updated on 5 May 2020
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Read this overview of the current school finance landscape to find out how coronavirus might impact the budget you're in the process of approving.

This article is based on what we know so far and what we expect might happen (please note that we don't have a magical crystal ball to gaze into!). The current situation might change, and we'll update this article if it does.

You’ll still receive your normal funding allocations

Your budget funding from the government isn't affected.

Your school will still receive its core funding allocations, special educational needs and disabilities funding (SEND), and funding for alternative provision for now and for 2020/21.

This is outlined in the opening section of government guidance here.

Changes to academies' budget reporting obligations

You'll still need to continue approving your budget as normal, although the Department for Education (DfE) has cancelled or paused some data collections this year due to coronavirus:

  • The budget forecast return outturn (BFRO) for 2020 has been cancelled
  • The DfE will make a decision on the 3-year budget forecast return (BFR3Y) later in 2020 – the budget you’re approving now is ‘year 1’

Maintained schools: budget approval in your school should be going ahead as normal – check with your local authority (LA) for any updates.

What your school is expected to be doing right now

1. Avoid furloughing staff

Your school shouldn't furlough staff who you employ directly with public funds. 

If your school uses private income to pay for some staff, it might need to furlough them – but only as a last resort.

Take a look at our article on The Key for School Leaders to learn more.

2. Carry on paying suppliers

State-funded schools are expected to continue paying suppliers as normal until at least 30 June. This is to help maintain cash flow and to avoid the need for your suppliers to furlough their staff.

Direct your senior leaders to our unlocked article so they're up to speed on the detail.

Your 2020/21 budget: what to bear in mind

Your school's budget is likely to look a bit different from normal times because of coronavirus. 

You'll probably have a shortfall in income

Any income your school usually receives from lettings or other external sources might have come to a complete stop.

It's also unclear when this kind of income will start up again.

Your costs are likely to be higher at the moment

This could be because your school is covering extra costs such as:

  • Free school meal vouchers
  • Deep cleans
  • Refunding parents for cancelled residential trips

State-funded schools will be able to claim some of these funds back (see section below).

It's also unlikely you're making any savings – this is because your school is expected to keep paying suppliers and staff.

State-funded schools will be able to apply for coronavirus-related funding

The government has announced that it's making funding available for schools to cover things like:

  • Extra premises-related costs where your school has been open over the holidays
  • Supporting pupils on free school meals
  • Additional cleaning due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases

The government is expected to publish more guidance in June about how your school can access the funding.

Let your senior leaders know about our article on coronavirus-related funding so they're clear on what they need to do.

You might need to cover extra costs when schools reopen

It’s not yet clear when schools will fully reopen and how coronavirus will impact schools over the coming year.

But your school should prepare to incur some extra costs to tackle the effects of what’s happening right now. You should make sure this has been factored into the 2020/21 budget by asking your school leaders about it (see the questions in the next section).

Note: the list below isn't exhaustive, and just because we've listed the extra costs here doesn't mean they definitely will happen – we can't predict the future!

Possible extra cost Why?
Supply teachers

Many of your teachers may not have had a proper holiday. 

It’s not clear how this’ll be rectified, but be prepared for higher supply teaching costs as teachers become sick or need time off.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Some staff may feel worried about coming back to work if they don't have access to PPE, as they don't feel protected.

Teaching assistants

If you have a significant proportion of pupils who you think will struggle with the transition back to school (e.g. pupils with behavioural needs or SEN), you may need to recruit more teaching assistants to help these children settle back into the school routine.

Mental health provision for staff and pupils

Coronavirus and the effects of social distancing may mean many staff and pupils will need support when they come back to school.

You school may consider things like hiring a:

  • Therapy dog 
  • School counsellor/therapist
  • Behavioural therapist

Your school may also want to give additional mental health training to teachers and staff – this’ll come with a cost too.

Ask questions but don't forget the current context

When your board is approving the budget, be mindful to not attack senior leaders about why they didn’t account for significant variations in the budget due to coronavirus – remember, no one could have foreseen this situation.

Coronavirus-related questions you can ask senior leaders:

  • Are we managing to cover the extra costs at the moment relating to coronavirus?
  • If we’re not, has the school contacted our LA (maintained schools) or the Education and Skills Funding Agency (academies) to seek any short-term advance payments?
  • Have you had to furlough any staff members? (If yes, ask: how did you make this decision? did you exhaust all other options first?)
  • Are we anticipating any significant increases in existing costs? E.g. IT costs for updated systems or devices, or extra continuing professional development (CPD) training 
  • Are you intending to apply for funding for coronavirus-related costs when the government releases this information?
  • Do we have funds in place to cover any additional support pupils might need when schools fully reopen?

What you'll want to hear

Senior leaders should explain whether they're able to cover coronavirus-related costs at the moment, and if not, that they've got a plan in place.

If staff have been furloughed, you want to make sure this was an absolute last resort. Leaders should have first:

  • Tried to make savings from the existing budget
  • Attempted to redeploy these staff to other roles

Leaders should also explain that they're aware of things like additional funding available to them, and that they're planning ahead for different costs that might come in the future as a result of coronavirus.

If you’re a member, find out what business-as-usual questions you can ask when approving the budget if you’re on the finance committee or full governing board

 

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