Managing resources in a dual campus primary school is a challenge. We promote a sharing and collaborative culture, but the distance between the two campuses makes it tricky for Y3@H to use the capacity resources before break and then Y3@WW use them after break. So, there is occasional doubling up of purchasing resources at times. This can pain me. At this time of year, I imagine there are many school offices full of boxes of resources waiting to be portered to the classrooms for use in the academic year ahead. This can cause me anxiety and not just because no one likes checking the order against the delivery note. Many moons ago, pre-second child, I worked as a Business Manager’s Assistant in a beautiful private school in decline. The Business Manager (an ex Parent of the school) and I were very late additions bought in by a desperate Board of Governors determined to turn the fortunes of the school around (imagine a horse bolting and then someone closing the stable door). They had already suffered in the build up to changing the status from a boarding school to a day school and despite the attractive buildings, extensive grounds and all their best marketing efforts the school sadly closed. I hadn’t worked there long and yet it had a massive impact on me. This wasn’t just because eventually there was just the Business Manager and I left in the massive and now slightly spooky building, which seemed to have its own repertoire of noises to surprise us. We started every day by checking every floor and room for any sign of break in and unwanted house guests. Always a great way to ease you into your day!
It turned out to be quite a physical task as we prepared items for auction and the building for closure. Literally ever cupboard and room were cleared out and sorted into significant high value specialist items which could be sold pre-auction – chapel organ, stain glass windows, big commercial catering equipment etc… and then items for auction – TVs, sit on mowers, classic wooden desks etc. This task was massive and took weeks. We collected masses and masses of what I would call every day teaching resources and gathered them in one room. It was quite a sight. A very sobering sight. Here sat years and I mean years’ worth of ordered but unused exercise books, registers, pens, pencils, rubbers, paper. I’m convinced no school needs to have enough registers for every class for the next five years sat in variety of cupboards spread throughout the school! Had individuals spent their allocated annual budget regardless of what they needed and already had waiting to be used in their store cupboard? Possibly in fear of not having the same budget the next year, spent the current year’s allocation in full on items which would not alert anyone suspicions that the budget allocated was surplus to their requirements. Surely with some imagination some fantastic learning resources could been sourced instead.
Even though this was at the start of my career in education I was mortified by the waste, cross at the attitudes of the former staff and embarrassed when the local primary schools were invited in to fill their bags with the loot from the school which had closed. Their stunned reaction when they saw the Aladdin’s Cave of educational resources was soon replaced by a greed to capitalise on the spoils before the next school turned up and discovered the free resources on offer. It felt like I worked for a foolish (former) school. I do hope that this “buy the same year in year out” pattern of behaviour didn’t continue in the benefited local primary schools and that those teachers that year ordered exciting and meaningful resources for their class, as they didn’t need to buy pens and paper. I will never know.
So, this event has had a lasting and deep impact on me. I’m not suggesting that the school could have been saved by changing their spending habits alone, there were bigger issues at play, but the culture of classrooms being an individual’s domain and not sharing resources was a toxic wedge, which like an unremoved splinter, just made everything around it sore, uncomfortable and ultimately infected. Not sure the 4 E’s – Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity were considered for long enough. In schools since, I’ve organised resource amnesties, no questions asked, just bring out your unused resources and share with those who don’t have them. The opportunity for teachers to move classrooms in primary schools is also an opportunity to cull the classroom cupboards and redistribute resources. So, to my current teacher colleagues when you see me wince when you bring purchase orders to the office, please be reassured its not you its me. When you see me check a cupboard for contraband un PAT tested items and I query the volume of unused pencils sat on the shelf, it comes from a place I can see, and I don’t want our school to go to. When I do a H&S walk, I’m not just checking that the top shelves don’t have unwieldy and heavy objects stacked precariously on them, I’m reassuring myself that we as a school are being efficient with our limited funding. Finally, when whoever opens the penultimate box of paper can you please tell the office, so we can order some more?!