Posted in NAPP2016, random ramblings

Money money everywhere and not a drop to spend

This post is part of my NAPP reflection on school funding and the role of the Principal and Board of Trustee’s in allocating those funds. The starting question was

How do principals with their BOT lead the management, monitoring and reviewing of school resourcing to ensure the schools priorities are met?

 

School funding is far more complicated than I imagined – and more open to abuse and errors than I imagined too.

Principals and school leaders do need to ensure they are spending money wisely and get the maximum impact. To often I hear of department heads spending up large at the end of a year to make sure they go through there own budget so they don’t get cut the following year, which indicates that inadequate review and planning are occurring for funding allocation. But if funds are limited, this does create a competitive culture within schools as individual departments or areas are fighting for a share of the same pie.

I wonder how Principals or boards can be more transparent with the way that funds are allocated. As a ‘teacher’, I have never seen a document describing how funds are spent within a school. I don’t even know the budget of my own department, as all the money matters are handled by my HoD. Perhaps this is my own fault for never asking or not knowing where to look. Would greater transparency lead to staff and department heads having a better understanding of how the money is allocated, and therefore a greater acceptance of how the money is spent. Could strategies for saving money or using ‘end of year’ money in more constructive ways stop the mad end of year spend – or is this mandated by ministry rather than individual schools? I also wonder if by having a more open system better decision making and justifications would have to occur. Conversely, would this detract teachers from their core business of teaching and learning….?

It saddens and frustrates me that Principals need to be weary of a big power bill, or holiday pay, or balancing leave such as bereavement and parental. I see this as just another distraction for school leaders away from the business of providing quality learning opportunities for students. Managing building (which can often be substandard or not fit for purpose) is also a huge drain on time and resources.

I also question how all the fund can be divided equitably for students and staff. My personal interest is around digital resources for teachers – but the PD budget is often contentious around the same few often getting funding for conferences while others miss out. This has to be balanced out with who would actually get the most out of the opportunities presented. Who would make the most out of a new classroom or an innovative learning environment? No easy task, but again if there was a strategic shared document it might make this pill easier to swallow for some staff, or perhaps allow staff to see what PD the school is focussing on and perhaps find opportunities that fit the priorities of the board.

I also think that universally there is not enough money provided to schools. How can principals, boards, teacher and communities work together to ensure money is not a limiting factor in the education and future of young New Zealanders? Principals and schools the country over do amazing things with a tight belt – imagine what could happen with more resources and funding.

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