Nigel Deacon, Sales Director at Streetspace, responds to the recent blog post from Matthew Clements-Wheeler, Director of the National Association of School Business Management; in regards to the Department for Education’s (DfE) efficiency saving plans.
“However hard it is for us in schools to hear, there are still (some) efficiencies to be found. We need to enter into a constructive dialogue with the DfE to debate which efficiencies are reasonable and which are not… As school leaders, we firmly believe that additional funding for school budgets will be needed. The system can’t be squeezed as thin as some think it can. There is an overly optimistic belief by the DfE that the necessary efficiency savings can eventually be realised from school budgets.”
This struck me as a very balanced view; we need to eradicate inefficiencies but have to maintain our ability to cope with the unexpected.
For the time being, however, even as pupil numbers increase, we continue to face budget constraints with very few signs of relief appearing on the horizon. In such circumstances we often hear that terribly hackneyed phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ used to describe the way we should identify creative ways of achieving more with less, but in this case we probably need to dispense with the box altogether or even deny its very existence.
For example, the importance of students getting a good meal has been well-documented but the provision of quality dining space is something that has consistently been given low priority by the DfE in recent years as they focus on teaching space and shoring-up crumbling school buildings. Rather than be constrained by the lack of budget, many schools have quite literally looked outside the box and created incredibly effective covered outdoor dining areas.
I would suggest though, that this is not just about putting on a brave face; we are in danger of ignoring the fact that there are tremendous benefits to being outdoors. In my experience students don’t mind the cold, and even this can be addressed quite easily, they just don’t like getting wet. They are enthused about having space to move, eat and socialise, the ability to grab-and-go, to get on with their chosen activities rather than standing in a queue.
So let’s not stay within the box, lamenting the passing of the traditional school dining hall as one of our great national institutions. Let’s not even limit ourselves to thinking outside the box and making do with covered outdoor space as an inferior alternative. Let’s deny that the box ever existed at all and create visionary outdoor dining spaces that will keep students warm, dry, fed, happy and keen to learn!”
Streetspace – deny convention, every day.