The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Masters

How to save your school money: small changes with a big impact

Imminent changes to school funding, tighter budgets and higher expectations… the pressure is on.  Our exclusive report suggests simple ways your school could save hundreds of pounds.

The recent news about a grammar school asking parents to pay for their children’s exams is yet another example of how schools are struggling to make ends meet.

Indeed, most school business managers I have spoken to recently tell me they are losing sleep over their school’s finances and are concerned about budget forecasts.

Optimus Education and NASBM recently commissioned a piece of research into operational effectiveness and efficiency to ask some searching questions of school leaders and their understanding of the strategic deployment of resources and effort.

The report, Guidance for improving school financial outcomes, suggests a range of simple initiatives could have a dramatic impact on your funds.

SLT and finances

One suggestion is to stress the importance of developing the SLT's financial and budget understanding. A good way to achieve this is by creating a regular agenda item at SLT meetings to review the finances and performance against the budget.

It also recommends giving staff members responsibility for driving out waste and implementing improvements. However, it goes on to say that, when it comes to buying supplies, limit teaching staff to defining their requirements and then task the admin team with sourcing the best supplier. This shores up more time for teachers to focus on their core responsibilities.

Other suggestions include:

  • make use of professionally negotiated procurement frameworks
  • ensure that your team leaders are effective
  • identify the financial benefit potential of creating a cluster
  • get the most from existing technology and reduce print and copy costs
  • reduce the time spent in meetings and reduce the frequency of emails
  • avoid visitors constantly disrupting admin staff
  • and many, many more.

The findings are from a study of efficiency measures at Backwell School in Bristol, carried out by OEE Consulting.

The approach involved a review of the finances, interviews with key members of the leadership and admin teams, process observations, workshops and diagnostic studies. This led to the identification of a range of best practice opportunities for reducing costs or improving value for money above and beyond the improvements that had already been implemented at the school.

‘When we agreed to take part in the study, I was confident that we were taking every measure available to be efficient,’ said Wendy Farrier, Backwell's school business manager. ‘The changes suggested seemed small and obvious, so we were surprised how much money they represented.’


As Stephen Morales, CEO of NASBM, mentions in his foreword to the report, while various initiatives have gone ‘some way’ to improving operational effectiveness, there is much more that can be done.

‘The education sector continues to administer operations in a very manual and paper-based fashion,’ Stephen says. ‘Unnecessary levels of bureaucracy and multiple layers of sign-off are adding no tangible control value and perhaps most significantly the skills of senior leaders are not being optimised.’

To find out others’ reactions to the paper, check out the great coverage we’ve already had in the media:

Download a free copy of the report

Please note: we are not endorsing or recommending any of the guidance in this report. These are research findings for your consideration.

Do more with less

An uncertain financial future lies ahead, so now is a good time for SBMs to come together and discuss ways of making every penny count. 

Our forthcoming 'Effective financial management in uncertain times' conference will be a day of practical workshops that cover everything from efficient restructures to income generation tips.

Register now to secure your seat!


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