Schools need to act as businesses - legal expert

Schools in Essex and the outlying areas need to start acting more like businesses in a bid to raise extra cash in preparation for a forecasted government funding squeeze, says an expert from Essex law firm Birkett Long.

Emily Brown, a lawyer with the firm, who is Head of their Education Team, is urging schools to look at their options and think about setting up trading subsidiaries to raise extra cash to protect the future of these schools and sixth forms.

She says a lot of schools that have converted to academy status with the freedom of running their own budgets should seriously consider this as another option for raising the cash they need.

“A lot of schools we talk to are looking ahead to what kind of money they are going to need in the next few years and have realised that the money from central government just won’t be there,” she said.

“This is about protecting the future of the schools. They urgently need to start thinking creatively about making their assets work for them, such as hiring out school premises after hours, at the weekend and in the holidays.

“These might include the playing fields, sports facilities and halls. They could also offer services such as summer schools since many working parents struggle to find childcare in the holidays.”

According to the Association of Schools and College Leaders, sixth form colleges are particularly under threat as the government seeks to change the way it funds them. It wants to give 18 year olds 17.5% less funding than 16 and 17 year olds.

Head teachers have stated that sixth forms with under 200 pupils will be rendered unviable in due course because they won’t have the funds.

“We don’t know the true extent of the financial difficulties that schools and sixth forms are going to face, but early indications, and the enquiries that we are receiving, show that they are going to be substantial. Schools are very worried,” said Emily.

A lot of schools we talk to are looking ahead to what kind of money they are going to need in the next few years and have realised that the money from central government just won’t be there

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