“What’s the best price you can do on this?”

Bretta Townend-Jowitt

Bretta Townend-Jowitt has been in education for over 20 years. Currently a headteacher of a rural one-form entry primary school in West Oxfordshire. A member and advocate for a focus group for The Chartered College; Advocate for the Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher project; Women Leading in education Coach and a member of the Advisory Board for Teacher toolkit. Passionate about staff health and wellbeing and flexible working.
Twitter handle: @Headspiration


Website: www.kingham.oxon.sch.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Headteacher Bretta Townend-Jowitt with the school mosaic. Headteacher Bretta Townend-Jowitt with the school mosaic.

In the current climate of budget cuts and financial pressures on schools, it has become a challenge for school leaders and business managers to be as innovative as possible by stretching our meagre resources.

Innovation can come in a number of ways. There’s edtech, products that are cost-effective and demonstrate value for money by having an impact on the teaching and learning, or by improving the workload and retention of staff. The edtech market, however, is becoming a rather cluttered place, and for some can seem somewhat daunting to navigate at the best of times.

This is where Innovate My School Speed Dating events come into their own, offering senior leaders and school business managers the opportunity to meet a number of edtech companies and providers of educational resources. By utilising “Schools are able to evaluate the usefulness of each of the products.”Speed Dating, schools are able to evaluate the usefulness of each of the products without the pressure of a one-to-one sales pitch on home ground, thus skipping the awkward end-of-pitch “No thanks”. Senior leaders can then decide whether to pursue the product further to determine if the investment in time and money will support the whole school community, have an impact on the teaching and learning or staff workload, provide value for money and / or deliver long-term results.

Listening to the sales pitch though is not the only process. I would recommend we also adopt further consultation processes with schools currently using the product, and ask for demo versions or free subscriptions for a limited period, meaning that we can thoroughly evaluate the product for impact and value for money. I have found that by contacting the product supplier directly, most are willing to accommodate our requests and help through trial periods.

School Aspect is one product we have embraced to support senior leaders and subject leaders in action planning, monitoring and performance management. This online product brings together the school development plan, school self-evaluation, monitoring exercises and performance management reviews into one easy-to-access place. This started with free training for all members of the senior leadership team from the product supplier, which was disseminated to subject leaders. School leaders now have online access to the school development plan, with email reminders of deadlines that they can access, meaning everyone has ownership on the objectives they are responsible for. Subject leaders have access to the system to develop subject action plans and model templates for monitoring purposes, which all links back to the development plan and self-evaluation. It is a system that ensures school improvement is at the heart of all we do, and is a changeable and working document that can be updated as frequently as is needed.

YouTube link

By engaging with the product supplier, through phone calls and face-to-face meetings, we now provide feedback on our school usage to show examples of how the product works in the work environment, improvements we feel could be made and possible new developments for the product. For example: members of our senior leadership team now help to suggest new ideas and create new templates for monitoring exercises, and the company discount the annual cost to our school to recompense for the work and ideas we provide.

As part of this whole process, senior leaders must be willing to invest the time needed to research the best products on the market. They must ensure that there is adequate time and training to introduce and integrate something new to staff and / or the pupils. Part of this process is the time invested in creating a good working relationship with the provider themselves, where they can support you and are willing to listen to you as a consumer in the feedback you provide. Whether or not this brings discounts for a school, it is still a valuable process to adopt to ensure the product is fit for purpose for your particular needs.

Negotiation is the key. Many suppliers are willing to provide discounts when schools sign up for multiple years or for multiple subscriptions, or give money back for recommendations. Senior leaders and school business managers should never be afraid to ask. The worst they can say is no!

As a school we have had free delivery for new metal sheds, 5% discount for a further purchase from the same company, 10% discounts offered when we signed up for email alerts for a company from whom we frequently purchase lighting, and many other offers. Most come, though, only by asking for discounts or a supplier’s “best price” - a bit like the programmes on TV when we see dealers buying from antique fairs where they always ask, “What is the best price you can do on this?”

This way, when you get it right you will wonder how you ever managed without the product, plus you’ll be pleased with the price you paid, knowing it was value for money and has the desired impact.

A further way to improve the school budget - to attain those items you would otherwise be unlikely to purchase on your existing budget - is through applications and bids for grants / funds. There are a great many charities and trusts out there, organisations who are only too willing to provide extra funds for schools and charities. Many of the supermarkets provide small grants, and some organisations provide up to £10k for bigger projects. Many are relatively easy to apply for using an online form, and require little information, whereas others are much more complex, needing a full project bid. Whichever you choose, there is money.

We have been successful in a number of grant applications. One example is Tesco Bags of Help, organised through Groundwork. This is where a school or charity completes an application for up to £4k funding for a specific project, and the successful applications decided upon by an in-store vote - those little tokens you collect at the till and place in one of three options. We ended up coming first in the vote and secured £3500 to purchase a Smooga system for our school grounds. More recently we applied to the Co-op Community Fund, and received £1500 to purchase picnic tables with table-top games for pupils to use at break and lunchtime.

Image courtesy of author

My advice when applying for grants is firstly to have a coordinated approach. Have a long-term plan, know what areas of school and which resources you would really like, and match these resources and products to the grant or charity. Many have a narrow remit, “You need a good working relationship with the provider.”so what you apply for must be closely matched to funding restrictions, and often their values. Read the application guidelines very, very carefully - not following the brief will mean you are unlikely to gain a grant, and you will have wasted valuable time applying.

If the grant relies upon a public vote then publicise widely: your parent body, social media, your website and everywhere else you can. This way you are much more likely to be successful. Have really goods reasons for applying for your resources. Add the educational benefits, do some research, and explain in layman’s terms why it would be good for the school. Remain positive in the application, and be willing to add a percentage of the overall costs from the school budget or PTA fundraising. I have found in some cases organisations are more willing to give a percentage rather than the whole cost. If the funding is only given to charities, use your PTA organisation in place of the school - however, I do recommend that the application is still completed in conjunction with a member of staff.

Lastly, don’t be daunted by the application. They may take a while to complete, but just think of the satisfaction when it is successful. The money appears, and you can cross something off that ever-growing wish list.

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"