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Business & Economy

Lifeline for cash-strapped schools

A top school business manager has developed a new staff absence cover service that could help save cash strapped schools thousands of pounds a year.

Tracey Gray, who has over a decade of experience at the Walbottle Campus in Newcastle upon Tyne, is a founding director of Education Mutual; a not-for-profit organisation that provides an ethical and affordable solution to staff absence cover for schools.

Gray was motivated to create the new model after growing frustrated with insurance policies charging a premium for a decreasing service.

Shock figures reveal a staggering 57% of teachers have considered leaving the education sector within the past two years because of health pressures.

Education Mutual looks to remedy this by offering staff access to early-intervention treatment for a wide range of health issues.

Gray said: “Schools across the country are losing a notable proportion of their school budget every year to private business profits. This is a huge waste of money.”

“In contrast, the mutual keeps as much of the budget as possible within the education system with any surplus money left over at the end of the year going back to its members in the form of a benefit.

“Not only does this help to recycle the educational pound but it also means more resources are available to look after the health and well-being of staff.”

She added: “80% of member’s contributions to Education Mutual go directly towards the payment of claims (with the other 20% covering running costs). Compare this to private insurance companies, where (on average) only 58% of your school’s annual fee is spent on the payment of claims, with the remaining 42% going towards a combination of sales commission, running costs, taxes, and of course, profit.”

Education Mutual is different from other staff absence cover providers because its owned by its members – schools, colleges, nurseries and other education providers. This means that all of the money that schools contribute to the mutual goes solely towards the payment of claims, covering running costs, and nothing else.

Gray argues this approach to be advantageous to schools and encourages other schools to join the ‘Mutual Revolution.’

“Every school should join the mutual so we can all regain control over our school budgets, work together to better support staff well-being, and keep our money where it is most needed – within the education system.”

Gray, who chaired the Board of Trustees for the Institute of School Business Leadership, also believes that the model helps prevents long-term staff absence: “This means health problems can be dealt with quickly, before escalating, and that long-term staff absences can often be averted as a result.

“Our care delivery includes physiotherapy and muscular skeletal services, mental health services (including face-to-face counselling), and a surgical assistance programme. Together, these services are able to address the most frequent causes of staff absences.”