It is no secret that many state schools – ourselves included – are in financial difficulty. Shrinking budgets and rising costs threaten to impact upon what schools are able to offer their students. Coleridge is not a profit-making organisation; student welfare, safety and education is our priority – not money. However, when the latter threatens the former, solutions must be sought and actions must be taken.
Setting the budget this year has been a challenge. As always, we have tried to reduce unnecessary expense and to use the money most profitably to maximise opportunities for our children. However, the increasing cost of national insurance, pension and income tax contributions, and the reduction in school funding, means that for the first time, we are faced with a potential deficit budget.
I have been very open with the school community about this matter and have spoken to teachers, governors and parents about the gravity of the situation. This is because I believe that challenges are best overcome when we fully understand them, and that solutions are best found when heads are put together.
In my talks to parents, staff and governors, I suggested that before we look at how to overcome the shortfall in income, we should first consider the things we hold most dear; the things which define our school and that we should fight tooth and nail to protect. It was heart-warming to hear that staff, governors and parents all shared the same view: that our creativity, inclusivity, and our innovative approach to teaching and learning, should be safeguarded at all costs. The challenge then, is how to retain these things in the face of such financial adversity?
To this question, hundreds of possible answers were given. Creative solutions for generating income were proposed and offers of help were made, affirming my belief in the power of community and the value of transparency. I would like to thank everybody who attended these sessions.
I also feel that there are some valuable lessons that the children can learn from this situation, and that they too have a role to play. They must develop a strong sense of responsibility towards their school by looking after its resources and environment. They should respect school property, and look to reduce wastage of paper, water and electricity. They can also be involved in research projects and philosophy sessions on subjects such as sustainability and debt.
As always, I feel reassured by the commitment and support of our school community. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be the head teacher of a school where so much goodwill exists and where so much hard work is done.