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Reassuring parents about potential school budget cuts: use your communications software to help!

Wednesday, 4 January 2023 by Weduc

 

The cost of living, paired with frugal school budgets, can make for challenging financial decisions. Headteachers and Multi Academy Trust leaders must make tough choices on how to run their schools. With the cost of living affecting so many businesses and schools, the increased media attention can cause some concerns with parents about the quality of education their child will receive in the midst of a financially challenging time for schools. In this article, we explore 7 ways to reassure parents about potential school budget cuts, utilising your school communication platform to help!

 

How will the current financial climate impact schools?

Gas and electric prices are higher than ever before; school leaders are noticing the increased cost to run (and heat) the premises. Headteachers and their financial teams are always on the lookout for how to save money across the school, but depending on how healthy your school budget is, this can mean more cost-cutting than saving money. Let’s first explore how the current financial climate will impact schools.

 

Impact on staffing

Some schools are having to reduce staff numbers to keep the books balanced, making the difficult decision not to renew or let go of temporary contracted members of staff. With fewer staff members per year group, parents may become concerned that their child’s education and well-being will suffer because of fewer staff in the year group. The reduced staff-to-pupil ratio may create a knock-on effect with increased behavioural incidents, a decrease in in-person communication with families and less personalised communications with parents.  

 

School environment

Rising energy costs will likely have the biggest impact on schools and exploring ways to reduce electricity and gas usage will be a consideration for many. Parents may have concerns, for example, that heating may be reduced to levels that become uncomfortable for pupils or that lighting is switched off or reduced to an extent that it increases the risk to people in and around the school building. 

 

Building maintenance 

Whether your school is a listed building or a new build, the increase in energy prices, trade supplies, and labour costs will impact how you can run your school this academic year. School refurbishments planned but not immediately essential may be paused as you plan to use your maintenance budget sparingly. Parents may be concerned that pupil safety and/or security may be affected by changes to maintenance and refurbishment plans and need reassurance about their possible impact.

 

Reduced extra-curricular trips and visits 

Pupils learn best through concrete experience, developing vocabulary acquisition, comprehension of word meaning and building their cultural capital. Your heads of department, key stages and class teachers will work hard to include several concrete learning experiences for your pupils. Planning class and cohort extra-curricular trips and offsite visits are linked to their learning topics throughout the year. With school budgets tighter than ever, some extra-curricular trips parents previously may not have contributed towards might be cancelled. 

 

7 ways to reassure parents about school budget cuts

Parents are aware of the cost of living pressures; schools can reassure them that the increased cost of living will not negatively impact their child’s learning experience. We share seven simple ways to reassure parents about school budget cuts

 

1. Explain the reasons for budget restrictions 

Explain the wider context behind any budget cuts and alterations in provisions parents may be familiar with, link the school budget challenges to home budget challenges and remind your school families that the energy price increase affects the schools just as it has done their homes. Some parents may find it comforting to be reminded that any choices to reallocate funding or budget use is not due to financial mismanagement of the school but the unchanged school funding amounts and the increased cost of living. You may find it helpful to use your online parent communication software to share a post reassuring parents of what the increase in the cost of living will look like at the school, allowing the two-way communication feature to listen to parents’ concerns and build trusting relationships. 

 

2. Give funding allocation information

Unless your school parents work in the education sector, they may be unaware of how the school’s funding from the Local Authority or Trust is organised. Explaining how the school’s budget is broken down can be reassuring for parents with children on the SEND register who receive additional top-up funding. Give parents confidence that their child’s SEND budget is protected with a short post via your Weduc parent app detailing the funding process and how certain pots of money are protected and ringfenced. Sharing this information can reduce the likelihood of parental frustration and complaints when they are aware of cutbacks on the teaching staff (from the staffing budget) yet see the school car park being resurfaced (from the maintenance budget). 

 

3. Share minutes from governor meetings

Involve parents in the discussion and strategic process by sharing your governor’s meeting minutes (or a summary) with your school families via your parent app and giving confidence that the funding restrictions are being discussed and are at the forefront of governor meetings. Encourage parents who want to join the governing body to apply when a vacancy becomes available, increasing their participation and voice in the school community

 

4. Use positive and sympathetic language

Your priority as a school leader is the learning experience and safety of the pupils in your school. This will continue to remain a priority when making decisions due to budget restrictions. When explaining choices such as reducing support or teaching staff, increased costs for extra-curricular clubs, and changes to offsite visits, take care of the language used to describe these decisions. Avoid using panic-invoking language such as ‘cutting teaching hours’ and consider using ‘staff reallocation’. The explanation behind the choices will assure parents that their child will still receive the highest quality of educative experiences whilst being transparent about school strategic decisions. 

 

5. Preparation is key

Some schools are struggling to afford the supply staff needed to cover staff absences and CPD training. When suitable, the option to split a class between existing classes is being used more and more. Parents may need clarification about why their child spent a morning in another classroom and be concerned it has amounted to wasted learning time. Prepare parents in advance at the beginning of the half term by explaining the potential plans if their class teacher is absent for that day; preparation and explanation can save many parent questions with the office team. Use your Weduc parent app and newsfeed to celebrate the quality learning the class achieved to quash any concerns about the content their child covered that day. 

 

6. Choose your communication platforms carefully

When sharing information and explanations about the impact the increased cost of living will have on your school with your parents, an open social media platform such as Twitter may not be the best avenue to use. Instead, use your closed Weduc newsfeed to share school-related information, enabling the two-way comments feature to create a meaningful discussion with your school community. 

Find out about how your school can benefit from a safe and secure newsfeed

 

7. Celebrate the good!

Amid explaining the budget restrictions every school is experiencing, the wonderful learning opportunities their child experiences whilst at your school can be forgotten. Regularly share and celebrate the fantastic lessons your staff create for the school's pupils, and share videos of the top-class facilities being effectively used to remind parents of the high-quality experience their child receives at your school. Using Weduc’s time-saving feature of sharing one post across its news feed and all social media channels can reduce teachers’ workload whilst keeping parents informed of school events. 

 

How can Weduc help to deliver challenging messages to parents?

  • Use your online parent communication software to keep in touch with parents easily, reducing the number of in-person meetings required through regular updates, shared support videos, and celebrations of in-class achievements.
  • Weduc has a closed newsfeed feature, accessible only to those with a login, making sharing pupils’ pictures and work examples safe and secure. The newsfeed is the ideal place to share posts that are school-community related, saving celebratory, branding and marketing posts for external social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. 
  • Create unlimited parent surveys to build a trusting, working relationship between school and home, valuing parents’ opinions and making them a part of the school community.
  • Weduc’s parent app platform is easy-to-use, making receiving important school information simple for all levels of technology confidence. 
  • Using the Weduc parent hub, unlimited documents, videos and links to external websites can be shared. Reassuring parents of policies and important documents and directing them to apply for free school meals, boosting the school’s funding income. 

Get in touch with one of our experts today and see how Weduc can help increase parental engagement, reduce staff workload and build positive working relationships. 

 

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