February 2017

The know zone

  • Modular to linear
    Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Suzanne O’Farrell highlights 12 key points schools could grasp as they move from modular to linear assessment in the classroom. More
  • Paws for thought
    During his formative teaching years, Gareth Burton jotted down memorable moments and exchanges that continue to have a bearing on his teaching career. More
  • Speed-date for inspections?
    Under the present Ofsted inspection system, schools that are rated ‘good’ only have to undergo a shorter day-long Ofsted inspection every three years. What are your views on this? What is your experience of short inspections? How well do you think they work? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Free resources to promote careers
    Focus on… National Careers Week 2017 More
  • Identifying children struggling to understand the written word
    It is easy to overlook, in any battery of statistics, the different patterns that lie behind the main conclusion. More
  • Leaders’ surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Generating income
    At a time when school budgets are under serious pressure and with some schools already hitting a financial ‘brick wall’, Business Leadership Specialist Val Andrew looks at ways in which schools could generate income to ease the burden. More
  • Close to the edge
    Small primary schools are facing a bleak financial future unless the government intervenes, says Julie McCulloch. More
  • Retiring thoughts
    Planning for retirement is something that many of us put off until we are almost at the age of retirement. Pensions Specialist Stephen Casey says it’s important that members prepare well in advance to avoid any nasty shocks. More
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At a time when school budgets are under serious pressure and with some schools already hitting a financial ‘brick wall’, Business Leadership Specialist Val Andrew looks at ways in which schools could generate income to ease the burden.

Generating income

With a stagnation in income and rising costs, schools continue to be challenged by the decline of available funds. A report, published last year by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), anticipated that all schools would face a real-terms reduction from 7% to 8% in per pupil spending in the period from 2015/16 to 2019/20 (www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/comms/R115.pdf).

The ‘thorny’ issue of income generation has fuelled debates about the morality of a state-funded education system having to supplement, what is proving not to be sustainable, income streams from government by turning their attention to raising funds from alternative sources to ‘prop-up’ budgets. Just to be clear, ASCL’s official stance remains unchanged – we want the government to ensure that the new National Funding Formula (NFF) provides funding for schools that is “sufficient, equitable and sustainable” (see ASCL’s policy paper http://tinyurl.com/j5m53wh).

That said, fundraising has always been an integral part of school culture, usually the domain of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and the potential to move into a more entrepreneurial paradigm has been in the sights of many school business leaders for some time. The concept of generating additional revenue to be able to cover the cost of more classroom support, buy additional educational resources, offer more diversification in the curriculum and deliver aspirational activity, all feed into the same moral imperative that underpins everything we do in education. So, the principles are already embedded, it’s the scale of this activity that is key and the urgency created by the current state of many school budgets. There can be hesitancy or even resistance to embracing business principles within an educational setting but, increasingly, school leaders are embracing that link between value, efficiency and effective use of resources and they are prepared to challenge some of those legacy behaviours.

Developing an incomegeneration strategy for your school is adopting a ‘business’ approach that has the potential to support the development of staff, students, curriculum activity and holistic school improvement.

What are the options?

Looking at some successful models, there are three basic approaches worthy of consideration:

  1. School ‘owned’ approach – which harnesses and exploits existing school facilities and personnel by lettings and/or consultancy, which generates pure income.
  2. Student focused approach – where students play a lead role e.g. in bid writing and creative thinking. Involving students could be seen as advantageous by potential funders and would provide students with useful business skills.
  3. Combination approach – which combines the best aspects of the two.

What works successfully for one school may not for another, so detailed research is necessary to both assess community need, examine the art of the possible and link as closely to the school development plan as possible.

Develop a strategic plan

I’d recommend that as a school business leader, you should have a detailed strategic business plan for income-generation activity that links closely to the School Development Plan (SDP) and includes all the necessary ingredients of financial and risk management. Ongoing reviews of the school’s financial health and efficiency will feed in to this planning, as both are integral in the context of maximising resources.

Build the right team

Successful income-generation activity needs the commitment of more than one person. Governors, the senior leadership team (SLT) and other stakeholders need to be involved. It is necessary to identify who will be responsible for co-ordinating the overall strategy, preferably a working group drawing on relevant expertise from within the school and governing body, but overseen and led by someone with financial experience such as a school business leader/ manager. Some schools have identified that their students are the most innovative bid writers and have targeted funders who give priority focus to student-led initiatives. There are also examples of schools appointing someone to a dedicated role.

Invest in research

Conducting the research and beginning to develop relationships with stakeholders is necessary but also time consuming. A plethora of web-based organisations offer to support this research and help to identify, and subsequently target, potential sources of funding. Some are free and some incur subscription costs.

The concept of effective research extends to the finer detail and criteria required by your targeted funder when embarking on bid writing. It’s vital to thoroughly check the criteria because two-thirds of funding applications fail on this aspect alone. Where there is a lack of in-house skill, schools are increasingly looking for external bid-writing support.


Fundraising is largely unregulated but there are statutory issues to consider, for example, data protection. The Code of Fundraising Practice is a source of advice and guidance (www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/code-of-fundraising-practice/).

Embrace technology

While some traditional methods of generating income retain their relevance, there are an increasing number of alternative tools at our disposal in this technological age. Harnessing this technology and maximising the use of social media can positively support innovative approaches to income generation.

More information:
Read Val’s new Guidance Paper on Income Generation www.ascl.org.uk/ gp/income-generation ASCL Conference for Business Leaders: Next Generation Business Leadership, 16 May 2017, Hilton Birmingham Metropole NEC
An invaluable opportunity for colleagues to explore and discuss strategies to support them with the ongoing challenges facing the school system. Hear the very latest from the government and from ASCL officers, network with others, share good practice and investigate a range of sustainable options to address current issues. Book your place online www.ascl.org.uk/blconference

Val Andrew is ASCL Business Leadership Specialist