One of the biggest stresses of the pandemic in schools has been the safety of pupils and staff, with operational teams stretched to the limit as they addressed the challenges that Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns brought. Josh Mitchell, our head of sales for Risk Manager, believes that the additional funding allocated for education in last month’s Budget will provide a boost not just in per-pupil funding, but also in helping school operations return to business as usual.
Having worked in education technology for years, the time when the chancellor pulls out his red briefcase isn’t usually a huge cause for celebration. For a variety of reasons, spend on education is often neglected when it comes to the Budget, but the investment revealed in this year’s announcement seems incredibly promising.
Regardless of whether or not the £4.7bn of extra school funding was purely a reaction to headteachers’ and senior figures’ unhappiness at the lack of investment announced in the spring, the additional £2bn being put into the COVID recovery fund – taking the overall sum to more than £5bn – is being highly welcomed across the sector.
This investment should take education funding back to the level it was in 2010, which is when it was at its highest point in recorded history. In reality, this means more education spend per pupil, which can only be a good thing going forward.
Alongside the educational benefits this increase in per pupil spend will bring, it also provides an opportunity for schools and other educational establishments to ensure that their operations, processes, compliance and risk management receives some focus as well.
This will come as a pleasant surprise for schools, who have – quite rightly – prioritised education spend over operational spend over the past ten years in general, but more specifically in the past eighteen months as they have battled with the challenges of a global pandemic and its impact on their pupils.
One of the biggest impacts that the pandemic has had operationally for schools is on their bricks and mortar. The growing problem of material shortages has joined the perfect storm caused by the challenges of getting consultants and contractors on site during lockdown, meaning that the condition of schools has suffered greatly since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.
Managing A Pandemic
One of the knock-on effects of the increased funding is a reduction of pressure on staff. Operationally, Covid saw huge amounts of pressures on staff to manage in-school testing and returns to school, and a lot of the risk management focus fell on mitigating the challenges this posed.
This additional funding shows an understanding from government that this has been a hugely challenging time for everyone involved in the sector and gives a green light for schools to really start their proper recovery from what has essentially been an eighteen-month long crisis.
The effect this has on operational staff is immense, because it gives them the opportunity to move away from the rigmarole of Covid regulations and back into what they do best – managing the infrastructure of the school.
This opportunity for renewed focus means that operational staff can return to managing the jobs that relate to the school’s estates and overall compliance. A lot of the conversations we are having with schools at the moment highlight that they have fallen behind on compliance tasks, largely due to the twin impact from the pandemic of lack of resource and absence of auditing.
Now that some semblance of normality has returned to the education system, those audits are now likely to resume, and therefore the operations teams need to ensure that they are up to date with their compliance checks, risk registers and procedures.
Condition forms a significant part of this. It isn’t just as simple as “is this building falling down?” – it’s about ensuring that fixed assets such as boilers are safe, and that the school is running in a way that minimises risk to staff and pupils. It is also about forecasting future spend vs funding, only something an up-to-date condition survey can give you.
The combination of extreme time pressures on operational staff and the fact that many have had to work remotely means that focus on compliance and standard procedure hasn’t always been top priority since 2020, and the absence of OFSTED inspections for many has exacerbated the issue.
From our conversations, operational teams are fully aware of these issues, and this additional funding that will become available as part of the recent budget gives them the opportunity to return to the level of process and risk management they had pre-pandemic.
If you are a school or MAT in need of risk management software, book a demo with our knowledgable team today.