Why Budget Cuts hurt our Schools and their Leaders

Earlier this year, the TES quoted a report by the NAHT that revealed, ‘65% of School Leaders “strongly agree” that cutbacks have already had a negative impact on the performance of their schools.”
In discussions related to the impact of spending cuts we have become used to reading about schools asking parents to contribute towards books and other essential supplies. We have become used to hearing about the pressure of increased class sizes, reduction in supply budgets and teachers taking on a raft of additional duties to cover posts that have been deleted. We hear all of this and quite naturally we understand how financial cuts have had a detrimental impact on the performance of many of our schools.

However, there is an added dimension to the debate that is often missed. Since the global financial crisis austerity has been an ever-present part of the collective mindset.

It has impacted on the way in which individuals and those charged with responsibility or, the care of our resources have discharged their duties. When it comes to money, it has resulted in many, School Leaders included, adopting a scarcity mindset.

What is a scarcity mindset?

A scarcity mindset is quite simply a belief that there will never be enough. Actions and thoughts stem from a place of lack. The present, the urgent, the immediate context are all that matter. Decision making is myopic. Short term impact, with very often far-reaching long-term negative outcomes.

Why is this the case? Because when you are operating from a scarcity mindset, fear is in the driver’s seat. You get caught up in what some have described as the scarcity loop and left unchecked this simply reinforces thoughts feelings and behaviours that are driven by an unconscious sense of never having enough.

Why should this matter to School Leaders?

As a School Leader you are responsible for creating a climate in which children and adults alike, can feel as though they are able to thrive. If you are operating from a scarcity mindset, it’s highly likely that you will be creating a climate around you and within your school that that has less to do with thriving and more to do with surviving.

Reflect on these questions below for a few moments…. How often do you find yourself doing these things?

– Thinking, “I have no choice’?
– Focusing on what’s not working?
– Feeling confused, disorganised, narrow in your thinking?
– Feeling powerless or overwhelmed?
– Micromanaging?
– Expecting the worst?

If any of the above, resonate then it more than likely that you are operating from a scarcity mindset and this will only compound the challenges that you are already facing in managing your school’s budget and resources.

You may not be able to change how the government directs money into your school, but you can change how you manage the responsibility of handling your school’s budget in the best way possible. You can take charge of your emotional response and the thoughts that you have. Consider how much better it would be for your leadership and those around you, if you came from a position of;

– Thinking “I always have a choice. If I were to notice something new or different about this situation, what would it be?”
– Being able to perceive multiple angles
– Responding and not reacting – taking a step back and seeing the wider perspective before deciding
– Feeling empowered, engaged and making decisions that were not a compromise on your values, but instead were completely in-line with them.

I imagine, School Leadership would feel very differently for you! Yes, we are living in a time were many of our children have become unwitting victims of the global financial crisis. But as leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that they grow up knowing and believing that they can be in the driving seat of their lives.

It is up to us to us to develop the cognitive and emotional acuity that will help create the environments in which they can and will truly thrive.

Creating New Narratives for the School Leader Journey

Over the last few years, I believe that the shared humanity in education system has been weakened by current narratives of competition, isolation, scarcity and lack within our education system today.  Our leaders now find themselves operating in a profession in which they’re increasingly expected to see pupils as data, their schools as businesses & fellow School Leaders as rivals and competitors.

These narratives are not supportive of our leaders and neither do they ensure the best outcomes for our children. Rather, they often only serve to demoralise, alienate and intensify the emotional challenges of School Leadership.

That’s why in October 2022, we will once again host Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for our very special “Education for the Soul” conference.

This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how School Leaders can look after their own well-being, get the most out of those they lead and deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.

The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how School Leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.

As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2022 will aim to help School Leaders and teachers:

– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others


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