- Ensure a good primary place for every child, with zero tolerance of failure.
- Continue to expand academies.
- Help teachers to make Britain the best country in the world for developing maths, engineering, science and computing skills.
- Create three million more apprenticeships, and make sure that there is no cap on university places, so that there is an aspiration for all.
- Provide free school meals to all infants.
These policies set out the future for nurseries, schools and universities in the UK for the next five years. However, with the Conservatives ruling out a ‘real time’ increase in school budgets, this will mean that as the number of pupils increases, budgets will continue to get tighter.
It will be more important than ever for schools to ensure that they are making the most out of their finances. Equally, with the aim to make Britain the best country in the world for maths, engineering, science and computing skills, teachers will need to ensure that they have planned the relevant resources to deliver an evolving curriculum.
The Conservatives will also continue to support and establish more academies, with an aim to convert ‘every failing and coasting school’. As academies continue to become more common place in education, it is important for converting schools, as well as already established academies, to consider the implications that come with becoming independent from their local education authorities.
Whilst it provides them with new freedoms, such as the ability to design their own curriculum, perhaps lesser known are some of the challenges that they, and particularly their school business managers, may face during and after the transition period.
Ownership of procurement – buying in the goods and services they need to run their schools effectively – will now fall to them. The responsibility for handling this may be a daunting prospect, but getting the contract negotiation and management right is crucial for achieving considerable cost savings.
Good practice will also offer a level of protection, ensuring that the goods and services remain fit for purpose, and that contracts are fully compliant with procurement rules and regulations.
Also, as free school meals continue to be rolled out across primary education, we will see further demand for schools to be equipped to meet the delivery. The scheme is already having a big impact on schools’ kitchen or canteen resources, which may not be geared to cope with the increase in demand.
Last year it was estimated that over 2,700 schools in England required improved kitchens in order to provide free meals for pupils. Figures obtained by the BBC also highlighted that more than 1,700 schools had no kitchen at all, with many resorting to portable ‘kitchen pods’ located in school grounds.
The 2015 policy means that procuring quality supplies that are both sustainable and affordable is more important than ever. Schools will need to consider a wide range of resources, including appliances, dining room furniture, tableware, uniforms and safety equipment for catering staff, not to mention the provision of food items. Whether re-equipping a kitchen, re-designing a dining area or buying additional catering equipment, schools need to start planning now.
As the Conservative Government gears up to implement these policies, schools need to ensure that they are future-fit and ready to maximise the support on offer from local authorities and organisations like YPO who can help equip them with the infrastructure to get it right.