Is your money just being poured down the drain?

It may well be true that government is spending more on schools than ever before.

It may also be true that the UK is the world’s third highest spender on education.

But is also true that schools spend a lot of their income on unlikely things. This week’s bills at Lydgate Junior School included:

Phone calls: £171

Grounds maintenance: £990

Electrician to refit outside lights: £458

SATs test marking review: £18

Childcare vouchers: £33

Energy management fees: £400

Playground equipment repairs: £596

Building repairs: £131

137 children’s chairs: £2,069

That’s just under £5,000 spent on things that do not seem at first glance to impact on children. Seeing as I have to authorise everything we buy, I have to have considered its need and decided it is justified.

  • We need the phone calls to stay in touch with parents, and children need them to be involved and on-board.
  • Grounds maintenance means the children can use the whole site safely, and with 480 on a site built for 360, we need to.
  • The outside lights on one mobile had to be replaced after we had had the building re-clad this summer. Darker mornings need lighting, as do the darker evenings.
  • Getting the grades deserved and earned is only fair, so we applied for remarks where staff could see unfairness.
  • All employees can offset some childcare costs against tax, and employers are obliged to pay the management costs. We think of ourselves as a decent, honest employer.
  • Remote energy management means weather change impact on school can be limited and the buildings kept habitable easier. Management also negotiates very favourable supply contracts.
  • Playground equipment gets used. Playground equipment therefore wears and occasionally breaks. It gets inspected and very occasionally fails. So we repair and replace whenever needed so children have many appealing play facilities available.
  • The Caretaker undertakes small and medium sized jobs, including fitting an extended computer bench in one classroom so that children could sit better to use computers without cupboards in front of their knees.
  • We replaced some carpets last year. The old chairs in that area are all sorts of inappropriate sizes, with many lacking rubber stoppers on the legs and so the chairs, when scraped back, are damaging the carpet. Rather than updating just one classroom we have done a whole year group.

We always consider not doing these things. No phone calls, no contacts. No grass cutting, no play areas. No lights, unsafe access. No appeals, unrecognised achievement. Properly entitled staff, stable staffing. Heating secured, comfortable working conditions. No repairs, less and less provision available. No replacements, unsuitable or inappropriate furniture.

So schools may have more cash in total, but we spend it all on essentials and all on things that are directly befitting children.

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