The School Finances – An In-Depth Analysis
Every once in while, a student, while aimlessly exploring the school’s website, stumbles upon the discreetly named “information page”. This happened to me several years ago and I occasionally check up, sometimes finding striking statistics. For example, in 2013 the school spent £5,588,000 and yet only received £5,290,000 in income – in other words a £298,000 budget deficit. Furthermore, that same year the school spent slightly over £19,000 on teacher compensation. I have decided that it would be a good idea to write an article for this newspaper and delve deeper into the school’s finances – something that indirectly is very important to each and every student and teacher of Bournemouth School. I would like to thank Dr Lewis who invested considerable time in discussing and explaining this information to me, to ensure accuracy. I shall start by examining the school’s income streams before moving on to expenditure.
Nearly all of the school’s income comes directly from the Department for Education – £5,024,993. This figure is generated by a complicated formula that takes into account the total number of pupils, the number of disadvantaged pupils (considered to be those on free school meals), those pupils who don’t speak English and the number of pupils joining and leaving outside the normal points/years of entry. It may not be a surprise that we score low on many of these metrics, for example 6.4% of pupils have free school meals compared to a national average of 13.9%. This then means that we receive the lowest funding per pupil in the Bournemouth region – roughly £4,500. Indeed the disparity in funding is demonstrated well when one considers the Bishop of Winchester, which has 250 less pupils than BS, but receives roughly £45,000 more in funding each year. Figure 1 on the right compares our funding to several local secondary schools. I shall not focus on whether this is fair or not, but it is certainly worth considering.
The rest of the school’s income can be split into activities for generating funds (8.7% of total income) and voluntary income (0.5%). The activities that raise funds are mainly catering, school trips and after school activities. It is worth bearing in mind that while these are classified as income, this money is then immediately spent by the school on the specific activity – Dr Lewis clarified that the school does not profit from activities such as school trips. In 2014 the school received a grant, called the Wolfson Grant, for £50,000 which was used to refurbish a science lab. The school has recently received a bequest from a former teacher which will be spent on upgrading another science lab.
Expenditure is, perhaps, the more interesting part of the school finances. Figure 3 gives an overview of where money is spent. As can be seen, the majority is taken up by teaching staff – £3,565,774 to be precise. Perhaps the best place to start is with Dr Lewis, who is paid between £85,000 and £90,000 per year. It is interesting to note how this figure relates to other local headteachers (Figure 4), and what is immediately apparent is that Dr Lewis is paid significantly less than many others in the area. The size of the school doesn’t seem to be a factor – since BSG has a similar number of pupils and the Bishop of Winchester has less students. Considering Bournemouth School is one of the best schools in the area, perhaps Dr Lewis provides us with very good value for money. Similarly Mr Anderson earns between £60,000 to £70,000. Mr Hampshire – head of science – earns between £45,000 to £50,000 which is in the same range as all of the heads of houses and heads of faculties.
As has been mentioned, staffing is the most significant cost to the school, which employs the equivalent of 110 full time members of staff – 65 teachers, 41 in administration and support and 4 in management. The Department of Education produces a benchmarking report card for schools that compares them to similar schools. It shows that BS spends 6.3% more on teaching staff for its comparison group and similarly 3.4% less on back office staff – which seems the optimal position.
The system of pay for a teacher is rather complex and is made up of different pay scales as well as additional points for having extra responsibility. Dr Lewis explained to me that when hiring staff their salary is the last factor that is considered and that the quality of teaching comes first. He told me that while many of our teachers are expensive, due to their experience, they are definitely worth their salaries. Surprisingly, the school spends £20,000 each year advertising in local and national newspapers for open teaching positions.
Educational costs are roughly £700,000 and include educational supplies – £103,951 and £134,441 for examination fees (invigilators cost £11,000). Roughly £16,000 is spent on photocopying by departments and £22,600 is spent on printing. Dr Lewis explained that each department’s funding is calculated by multiplying the number of pupils who take it with its weighting – e.g. technology and science would have much higher weightings than maths or English. Furthermore, total department funding has recently increased from £35,000 to £60,000 – an increase of 70%. The library costs roughly £45,000 a year, which includes both staff and resources.
According to Dr Lewis, the “break-even” class size for the sixth form is between 18 – 20 pupils, meaning that some subjects like German, Latin and music all operate at a “loss”. Dr Lewis says that it is very important for the school to have a sixth form in order to attract the best teachers, and it is also better to have full-time teachers who can have form groups and provide cover. Therefore it is in the interest of the school to maintain provision for these subjects. There is also a strategic plan: usually, students studying these subjects are focussed, committed and motivated and therefore an asset to the class, teacher and lesson, making Bournemouth School an attractive destination to potential new members of staff. Another factor worth considering is that other schools have stopped providing certain subjects, meaning there is less employment for the teachers of these subjects. The Year 12 students are all aware that they will not be able to drop any of their four A-Levels (regardless of whether the AS is still offered). If an A-Level student studies 4 subjects they are classed as a full-time learner, but if they only study 3 they are classed as a part-time learner, meaning the school will receive less funding for that individual.
Recently the school has upgraded some of its infrastructure. ICT upgrades cost £41,860 and the wireless network upgrade cost £14,215. The cashless ID card system came to a total of £21,000, roughly a half of its projected budget. The new heating system came to £166,000 which was undoubtedly a necessary expense (albeit at the expense of our corridors’ aesthetic). Overall in the latest year, maintenance of premises and equipment came to £118,164, lighting and heating £68,624 and rent and rates £50,610 (the rates go to the local council, who then give the school a grant of the same amount – seemingly pointless, bureaucratic and inefficient). The cleaning cost was £1703, utilities £8,469 and the telephone bill was £10,093. Each year the school also applies for a capital maintenance grant of roughly £700,000 to be spent on general upgrades to the building, including the roofs.
The school has a rather complicated relationship with the Sir David English Sports Centre. The Centre is owned by the Bournemouth School Charitable Trust, of which BS is a member. The trust then contract out the organisation to BHLive, while the school contributes £15,000. This arrangement is guaranteed until 2035. This is immensely beneficial to the school, as we can use the excellent facilities without needing to worry about managing the site. Furthermore we are protected in case of legal action.
Finally, I will briefly run through the finances for the catering system. Indeed, Dr Lewis stated that one of the reasons for the ID card system is that it will grant greater insight into the finances of the Canteen and Deli Bar, so that the most popular meals can be prioritised. In 2015 the income from catering was £237,948. £97,663 of this is spent on catering staff and £158,019 on catering resources. A simple calculation shows that the last year the catering system made a loss of £17,734.
Overall it has been very interesting for me to analyse the school’s finances and I would like to thank Dr Lewis again for agreeing to meet with me and providing me with additional information. As well as providing some behind the scenes information about the school, I also wish to promote a culture of transparency and openness as well as a willingness to scrutinise our public services. After all, it is our parents and, in the future, ourselves, who fund public services. If you are interested and want to find out more, the governors’ report for 2014 to 2015 (Source 1) is available online, but be aware it is long and verbose.
By Max Warner. With help from Jamie Siviter, Connor Taylor Smith, Ian Westhead and George Wright
If data is not from these sources then it came directly from Dr Lewis. Unless otherwise stated all data comes from the 2014-2015 accounting period.
Featured image: courtesy Ken Teegardin (C) Released under CC BY SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/