What’s the difference between a school and a business?
I can already hear the sharp intake of breath and the loud tutting – “does she not know, schools are not businesses, we are here to educate pupils and that’s not about money.”
It may not be about money, but I bet you most headteachers wouldn’t turn down more money, so why shouldn’t we think of schools as a type of business? If you dissect both business and schools, there are lots of parallels.
All businesses have a brand – as a school, is this not your school name and the logo is your badge – is this your brand identity? All businesses start with an idea or a vision – is this a school’s mission statement or ethos? Businesses put together a business plan, schools produce school improvement plans. Businesses have KPIs and schools have Sats/exams and league tables for measurement and comparison of performance. Businesses can have boards of directors, schools have a board of governors. Both have employees and both have products, and although you may not like to think of pupils as ‘products’, is that not what they are?
So it looks as if there are many parallels with businesses, more similarities than differences. And how many schools now have business managers? Is that not an indication that schools should be thinking smarter and adopting more commercially savvy practices?
Schools bring in funding from government grants based on pupil formulas, and academies and free schools can bring in funding from other external sources. Federated schools can pool resources. And let’s not forget independent schools who charge for the service they offer. What if they have got it right – what if schools and education are one big service industry? Yes, it must be based on educationally sound principles, but what if teachers and headteacher shifted their thinking, and actually believed that they provided a service for customers? What changes would that make in your school? Well, where do you start with that one? Probably at the front door – what do you entice your customers in with? “This school is a ‘good’ school” – so what, I want the best for my child, not just “good”. And think about how you greet everyone that crosses the threshold, what is your customer service like?
So what are the implications if we start to consider schools as a type of business? Can you also make money? It isn’t rocket science to realize the assets you have in a school building and the skilled resources you have in your staff, but it might take a bit of creative thinking and risk taking to think about how to use them smartly to generate income rather than just spending it.
And the latest news today is the IFS claiming public spending on education is falling at the fastest rate since the 1950s, it looks like there could be a real decline in schools budgets over the next few years. So how will you react; bury your head in the sand and keep doing what you’ve always done or are you on the cusp of a great opportunity to change the way school professionals operate?
What if you thought more like a business?