Industries across the globe are feeling the pinch in the current economic situation. Fuel prices continue to rise as a result of reduced supply and this continues to impact every industry, including logistics, manufacturing, and more. The majority of us are battling with increasing costs in our everyday lives, too. 

With frequent reports on the impact of inflation and rising costs on industries like air travel, transportation and even tourism, it can be too easy to forget to consider the all-important smaller picture.  

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In September 2022, the UK government announced a bill offering six months of support for schools facing increasing energy bills. However, as this support period comes to an end, schools are bracing themselves for the continued increase in energy costs.  

Independent school finance departments face a balancing act to ensure that the school has the resources needed to continue meeting education standards and sustain growth, while keeping the power on. 

As an establishment with increased average daily energy usage, how do you manage your bills without impacting the learning environment? Here are just a few tips for optimising your energy and futureproofing your school against the growing energy crisis. 

Data visibility 

Effective data management is the key to maintaining school operations in every department. However, the finance department specifically rely on data to understand where funds are going, and where outgoing funds can be optimised. This doesn’t just apply to schools' energy bills and usage, but the wider expenditure of the institution.  

A strong and consistent core database needs to be at the heart of everything you do when running a school. The database is relied on to provide the user (whether finance department or other) with instant and usable information. Data forms the basis for all decision making, and you need to be able to rely on that information.  

School's energy bills

In the case of the finance department, the focus of data visibility is to provide users with access to consistently up-to-date information so that they can identify what the school is spending on and who is spending it.  

A simple example in schools could be managing coach hire costs. If fuel prices increase by 10%, then coach hire costs will increase by 10%. You would then need to consider how you can find savings elsewhere in the budget to fund that unavoidable increase in cost. Data visibility is key to that decision. 

The majority of schools rely on a base MIS to provide them with the information they need. However, the finance department need to be able to incorporate all that data, and more, to fully understand how the budget is being used and how to balance it across departments and outgoing bills. 

The power of the cloud 

Cloud-based technology has well and truly transformed our everyday lives. The majority of us carry a little bit of the cloud in our pocket, on our smartphones, and we often don’t realise just how much we rely on that technology. 

The Cloud Computing in Education sector market size is projected to reach USD 173.62 billion by 2030, indicating that the future of education truly lies in the cloud. Accessible cloud-based solutions ensure that bursars and financial management can always access the information they need, consistently, securely, and easily. 

A versatile database that performs for your school is the key to improving time management in the finance department. Providing the opportunity to reduce admin and focus on generating actionable insights is critical to driving improved financial performance in your school. 

Technology and insights 

While a secure database and finance solution forms the core of independent school financial management, the power of EdTech doesn’t stop there. Taking advantage of the latest technologies and integrations provides you with the best opportunities in the fight against rising school energy bills. 

The latest third-party EdTech APIs allow you to partner your systems with analytical technologies and software. A finance department cannot work through the hordes of financial and energy data alone. Analytics are the key to recognising trends and generating a plan for optimising resources moving forward. 

Technologies and software like this can support the finance department with cost management decisions, financial planning and, more specifically, energy forecasting and resource augmentation. 

A commercial example of this is the increasing popularity of smart buildings and the technology within. The latest IoT technologies and cloud computing work together to understand the building usage, including energy consumption. Combined with a core database, the technology provides analytics and insights to get the best out of the available resources. 

Let the latest energy tech translate your existing data stores into real insights for your school and learn where you can enhance your existing energy supplies. 

Optimise energy usage 

It’s important to recognise that the goal of all of these technologies is one thing, to optimise. Whether you have the technology available to begin generating these insights, or whether you’re looking to invest further down the line, there are some simple optimisation strategies that you can employ in your school today to help reduce your school’s energy bills. 

Natural light:  Thanks to their large windows, many school buildings have access to vast amounts of natural light. Despite this, the lights are on throughout the school day. Not only will making use of that natural light be beneficial for your schools' energy bills, but also for the learning environment.  

There are a variety of benefits to natural light, including increased vitamin D and a reduced stress response. Consider where your school can make cuts to your artificial light usage. 

Vending machines: For many schools, offering amenities like vending machines or water coolers is intended to improve the school environment for students. However, machines like this continue to suck power throughout the day - when the school community isn’t there to use them. 

Consider optimising the timing of these machines, and allow them to power down during quiet times, like during lessons. Simple timing switches could reduce your school’s energy consumption in the long run. 

School's energy bills

Computers: Another big power consumer during the school day is computers. Daily school operations rely on them, but they can often be forgotten during the school rush. Ensure that your staff body are taking the time to completely power down all of their electronic resources as much as possible.  

It may not seem like much to begin with, but research suggests that between 9 and 16% of electricity consumed is due to appliances in standby mode. 

Timers: Needless to say, your staff have plenty to focus on during the school day without worrying about their appliances. Timers are a simple technology and have the potential to improve consumption when implemented strategically.  

Take the time to work on a strategy for your school that ensures access to electronics when they’re needed, but prevents their energy consumption when they’re not. 

These are just some basic examples of small initiatives that your school can implement to help reduce unnecessary consumption. While these may seem minor, the key is to continue working towards the shared goal of minimising schools' energy bills in any way you can, even when the latest EdTech innovations are out of reach. 

Maximise funding opportunities 

Despite all of the available measures for reducing consumption, unfortunately energy bills continue to increase and that’s a fact. Your school's energy costs are likely to continue rising and more resources will need to be allocated towards keeping your school switched on. 

Another key strategy for managing your energy bills is to ease the sting where possible by expanding the available pool of funds.  

Consider what resources your school could offer to others, and what events or initiatives could help to generate more income. Often, schools have excess facilities or buildings that aren’t always in use, which could be utilised by other parties. This is especially useful outside of term time. Could your school run fundraising or networking events to involve the local community? 

Whatever your approach, the key is to make the most of what your school already has to offer. Ultimately, the more funds, the less impact increasing energy bills will have on your other school resources.  

iFinance supports independent school finance departments 

iFinance is a bespoke financial management solution for independent and international schools. The system is 100% cloud-based and integrates with the wider iSAMS MIS for smooth data management. We prioritise data security, while allowing you to improve time and resource management in the finance department.  

iSAMS works with a range of technology partners, and offers a comprehensive API, ensuring that your school can work with your preferred systems while maintaining a single controlled database.  

Learn more about iFinance and watch a system demo below:

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