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Challenges Of A Budget Deficit For School Leaders

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.0 Introduction

Wildavsky (1986) has raised pertinent question about the evolution of budgeting at school level in these words:

From the time the caterpillar of budgetary evolution became the butterfly of budgetary reform, the line-item budget had been condemned as a reactionary throwback to its primitive larva. Budgeting, its critics claim, has been metamorphosed in reverse, an example of retrogression instead of progress…Yet, despite these faults, real and alleged, the traditional budget reigns supreme virtually everywhere, in practice if not in theory. Why? (Wildavsky 1986, p 313)

According to the Education Reform Act (ERA) of 1988, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) are authorized to prepare local management of school (LMS) plans for all the primary and secondary schools within their assigned districts (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996). Board of governors of each school is responsible to devise and implement the financial management schemes out of the funds given to them by the LEA (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996). Authorities at the school level are autonomous to allocate funds according to their peculiar needs to yield maximum results in the form of higher student learning’s (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996). This package of reforms by the government has set some assumptions for the management of schools (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996). For example it was assumed that these reforms will triggers change management programs in the educational institutions which ultimately improve their performance in terms of efficient transformation of knowledge to the students (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996).

The delegation of financial budgeting to schools was the integral part of this scheme which is also explicitly mentioned in the proposals of LMS (LMS Initiative 1988). Under the new setup, governors and senior teachers have to play many a new roles such as of defining the categories of budgets, the distribution of funds and determining the internal auditing mechanisms (LMS Initiative 1988). LMS has also provided detailed guidance for devising the budgeting techniques (LMS Initiative 1988). Governors and senior staff members, for example, are prohibited to use the iterative historical budgets (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996).

The Comprehensive budgeting scheme is definitely confronting in nature which has radically transformed the existing setup within the organization (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996). In response to this, Wiedenbaum (1970) commented that the procedure of funds allocation is “hardly deliberate and systematic choice among alternatives that economists try to envision. Rather, it is a fragmented and compartmentalized affair. Many of the key decisions are not made during the budget process or within the budgetary framework at all? (p 233).

It is evident from the comments of Wiedenbaum (1970) in this respect; 'zero-based budgeting' is proposed to follow as a bench mark while pursuing the standard of comprehensive budgeting setup.

1.1 Objectives of the Research

To figure out the challenges of budget deficit faced by school leaders is one of the main objectives of this research. This objective will be achieved by digging out the main causes of budget deficit through research questionnaires.

1.2 Aim of the Research

The chief goal of this research is to find out the optimal budgeting strategy which maximizes the student learning in a cost effective fashion.

1.3 Relevance to the Researcher

As a school teacher, researcher is also facing the similar problem of deficit budgeting at his workplace. So the findings of this research can be helpful to the writer to solve the issues of deficit financing at his school.

1.4 Summary

In this chapter, researcher discussed the delegation of delegation of budget making responsibility to the school leaders by the government of UK. The aim of this mega shift was to make the schools self sufficient in managing their affairs and to enhance the learning of students as a whole. Research objectives, aim and interest to the writer are also briefly discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 2: Literature review

2.0 Introduction

In this section, the issue of deficit budgeting at school level will be discussed. Then the role of school leaders as a manager of financial affairs will come under discussion. Later on, some noteworthy challenges and their possible solutions will be discussed.

2.1 Budget deficit at school level

Budgeting is the process of estimating the future expenditure of an institution for a certain period of time and the amount of money needed to fulfil that demand from certain sources of money (Investopedia 2010). A budget is actually microeconomic idea which is based on trade-off of one thing for another (Investopedia 2010). A surpluses budget can occur when the amount of revenue exceeds the expenditures which leave some unused money at the year end (Investopedia 2010). On the other hand, an institution can have deficit budget when the amount of expenses surpass the amount of income (Investopedia 2010). Both these situations are unfavourable for the management of an educational institution such as a school (Knight 1993).

On the expense side of school budget, there are many items such as the salaries of staff, books, stationary, utilities expenses like heating system charges and games' expenses (Knight 1993). All these costs are important in their own ways and play their own role in the final output of a school. What the school leaders need to do is to prioritize these tasks according to their level of urgency and importance so that they can meet these obligations without incurring surpluses and deficit budgets (Wildavsky 1986).

On the revenue side, main sources of cash are tuition fees from students, donations, subsidies and government funding (Wyner and Light 2010). The money received from students in the form of fees can show fluctuations as the number of students enrolled each year keep on changing. Hence it is difficult to estimate the exact figure in the beginning of year (Knight 1993). The funds from government are also not certain in the sense that if there is recession in the economy, government may allocate less to the education out of the total national budget (Coleman and Anderson 2001).

As per the national statistics of UK, inflation is rising, which means that the things of common use are getting expensive day by day which put extra pressure on the school leaders to manage their budget prudently (see figure 1). Hence it is anticipated that this rise in inflation is adding fuel to the fire and will exert extra pressure on school’s budgets.

This is a graph showing Annual inflation rates - 12 month percentage change

Figure 1: Inflation of UK till March 2010 (Office for National Statistics, 2010)

It is, therefore, not an easy task to forecast both the expenditures and revenues at school level. As a result, most of the school’s managers wait for some period till the picture of future revenue and expenses is clearer. This is also known as incremental annual budgets for the school.

Budgeting is very important activity for the schools’ management as the performance of the upcoming year depends upon the right planning and the proper implementation of educational programs (Blandford and Blackburn 2004). As per the critical importance of budgeting, it is considered as one of the main responsibilities of the governing bodies to set the annual goals and prepare budgets accordingly (Blandford and Blackburn 2004). However it is noted that there is often deficit and surpluses of money at the yearend which indicates that the authorities are not doing well in making their school’s budgets (Edwards and Ezzamel 1996). One possible reason of surplus or deficit budgeting is that the school leaders can not accurately anticipate the exact amount of revenue and expenses for the upcoming year (Wildavsky 1986). Though they are provided precise guidelines and framework, yet there are surpluses and deficits at the year end. If the goals are pragmatically set and budget categories are well defined, the school leaders will be in a better position to estimate the amount of funds needed for the forthcoming year to meet their expenses.

2.2 Challenges of Deficit Financing

As discussed above, an institution has to face deficit budgets when there is mismatch between the revenue and expenses. Unexpected increase in the school’s expenses due to inflation or less than expected amount of funds collected from government can cause the budget disparity (Wildavsky 1986). School leaders at The Stanhope High School are facing many challenges because of the equally pressing demands for keeping good quality staff and expenses on games and utilities. Some of the noteworthy challenges are as follows:

2.2.1 Absences of clear vision statement

It is found that most of the schools do not have clear or very broad vision statements. The absence of lucid vision impedes the way for effective allocation of funds (Thompson and Strickland 2003). For example, a school that targets the higher level of student’s learning and better grades requires that they should spend more money on hiring quality teachers and better library utilities rather than spending on entertainment and sports. Of course every school would like to exhibit higher level of learning but setting as a vision is something else. Once a superior vision statement is in place, it is far easy for the school leaders to allocate resources to the different budgeting heads (Thompson and Strickland 2003). This is one of the ways by which they can avoid deficits in their budgets.

2.2.2 Difficulty in allocating the budget

School leaders often face things of equal priority such as spending on the quality teaching staff and study tours which perplex the situation (Thomas and Martin 2003 ). In such cases, if they spend more on one item, the benefits associated with the other category may be foregone (Thomas and Martin 2003 ). Keeping in view of the scarcity of funds and vision of school, senior managers can issue a policy statement for the annual spending categories and their respective percentages.

2.2.3 Spending Money for no-value adding expenses

The spending of precious money on items such as extra costs on trips etc which add no value to the learning of students and their final results often put unnecessary burden on the budget of School (Cross 1998, Thomas and Martin 2003 ). This may happen due to the lack of planning in the beginning of year and realizing more importance of less valuable items. Once a school has extravagantly spent money on some low value adding items, there may left less amount of funds for the other indispensable educational item such buying the latest books for school library.

2.2.4 Unexpected increase in expenses

For the proper budgeting, it is imperative that organization should have proper and reliable estimate of the future expenditures (Fidler and Russell 1997). The expenses pertaining to the salaries of staff and number of student etc cannot be accurately forecasted which leads to the insufficiency of funds during the year (Fidler and Russell 1997). If the school budget run short amid the year, it becomes extremely difficult for the school leaders to yield their maximum output in the form of superior student’s learning.

2.2.5 Difficulty in raising funds amid the year

Once there is shortage of money during the year because of any reason, school managers have to go for deficit financing which may halt the teaching activities and create panic for the management (Chapman 1997). One bigger challenge is to raise extra funds in the middle of year as government is often reluctant to issue new funds beyond the limit of assigned budget. This scarcity of money can lead to the stoppage of some critical nature activities which may have worst implications on the learning of students. In case, school leaders have to borrow funds to fulfil the gap of deficit budget from somewhere and there are no more surpluses in the coming years, this may be create the circular deficit. This circular deficit can be a great challenge for the school leaders to manage it.

2.2.6 Inaccurate Forecasts

Mostly the errors in forecasting annual expenses (i.e. over or under estimation) results in the surplus or deficit budgeting. However forecasting errors can be minimized by using some sophisticated forecasting tools. The routine item such as utilities can be separated from the uncertain categories so that they can be forecasted based on the past data (Davis, Chase and Aquilano 2003). Historical data can be helpful to find the previous trends and predicting the future expenses. Some examples of such forecasting techniques are moving average, least square based estimations (Davis, Chase and Aquilano 2003).

2.2.7 Lack of pertinent accounting and finance knowledge

The inability of accounting and finance knowledge can be a serious challenge for the school leaders. If middle managers of school are not aware of the financial theory and practice, they may face difficulty in the right and effective operating decisions. For example, the impact of inflation on the future prices of goods and services can put extra burden on the already tight budgets (Wildavsky 1986). If school managers are well aware of the finance and flexible budgeting techniques, they can avoid the problem of deficit financing.

2.2.8 Lack of training to formulate budgets

School leaders have to bear this extra burden of making annual budgets irrespective of the fact that they have proper training for it or not (Coleman and Anderson 2001). Most of the time, they have work extra hours to define budgetary items, estimate their individual costs and calculating the total annual expenditures. Then matching with the amount of funds available to them (Blandford and Blackburn 2004).

In short, school leaders are under the constant pressure of shortage in the budgets which force them to have tradeoffs in making their choices.

2.3 Measures to face the challenge of budget deficit

Wyner and Light (2010) have suggested some remedial measures that can be taken into account to face the challenges of shortfall in budget: Wyner and Light (2010) have proposed that purchasing should be centralized in order to lower down per unit cost by taking the benefit of bulk purchasing. They also added that Repeat purchase and loyalty cards can be helpful to avail of discounts on perishable goods (Wyner and Light 2010).

'Early bird tuition discounts' can also be offered to speed up the inflow of cash to the schools (Wyner and Light 2010). Moreover, school leaders should not miss any opportunity to hunt for the grants and subsidies (Wyner and Light 2010). Endowment funds can also be a good remedy for the problem like financial deficit. The money of endowment fund can be invested in some ventures through banks to generate a stream of periodic cash flows for the school. Paperless culture should be promoted as it reduces the burden of buying expensive stationery items (Thomas and Martin 2003 ). E-Books, electronic portals, virtual communities and telecommunicating are some of the modern information and communication tool (ICT) that can be helpful to drive the cost of imparting education at schools (Thomas and Martin 2003 ).

2.4 Research Questions

1. How the school's budget is allocated to best support the superior learning?

2. What are the implications of the longer-term planning? How the leaders can manage to devise short term goals to achieve the shared vision?

3. What are the perceptions (real or perceived) of middle leaders about the budget they have to manage?

2.5 Summary

This chapter is about the critical review of the literature which the researcher has studied to understand and clarify the key concepts pertaining to challenges of deficit budgeting at school level. Some significant challenges such as absence of clear vision and rising inflation etc are identified. At the end, researcher has narrated some important measures such as bulk buying, paperless culture and use of endowment fund etc. to avoid the shortage of budgets.

Chapter 3: Research Methodology

3.0 Introduction

The objective of this chapter is to analyse and evaluate the different research methods available for the purpose of research. Then the concept of different research methods, their respective advantages and disadvantages will be discussed. After going through all the pros and cons of these methods, a particular research method will be selected. The description of this research technique along with benefits and limitations will be also come under discussion. The rational of choosing the proposed research methodology will also be discussed.

3.1 Research Methodology

Research methodology plays an important role as a tool to achieve the desired research objectives (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). Research methodology is the combination of two words: Research and Methodology which are harmonizing each other (Goddard and Melville 2004). Research is not just collecting, interpreting and presenting the data from some other sources (Goddard and Melville 2004). It is the process of evaluating and interpreting current or past data from books, peer reviewed journal articles and some other similar sources; and carrying out personal research to prepare something original and valuable contribution which would play its role in the advancement of knowledge (Colwell 2002). This is achieved in various ways which include interpreting previous studies to explain the details of that study, explaining a part of any field of study to provide a new and fresh perspective or evaluating and observing any new theories for a particular field of study (Kumar 1997). Main objective of any good quality research is to surge the human knowledge about a known fact or present new ideas and facts in any discipline (Kumar 1997).

Research cannot be carried out by just collecting data and interpreting it (Mallette and Duke 2004). The methods used for collection, analysis and presentation of data are the necessary tools to perform an effective research (Mallette and Duke 2004). Research is actually the study of unknown where people try to discover new ideas and invent new products (Colwell 2002). Research methodology explains what methods are applied to collect data, to analyse it by using different analysis software tools in a particular field of study (Goddard and Melville 2004). It is the pre-requirement of a quality research that the various methods, tools and techniques of research should be known to the researcher before conducting the research; otherwise the researcher may miss some necessary steps and sequences in collecting, analysing and interpreting the data and reaching at some meaningful findings (Mallette and Duke 2004).

3.2 Two Main Research Approaches

3.2.1Quantitative Approach to Research

The quantitative research methodology is used very commonly in science and technology oriented researches (Ulin, Robinson and Tolley 2004). The quantitative approach to research uses the data related to measurements of certain variable and then evaluates that numerical data to figure out the cause and effect relationship between them (K. Jensen 2002). This research is based on statistical methods and numbers (McNabb 2002). The researcher in a quantitative approach sometimes measures and observes the statistical data related to the particular research area (Kumar 1997). Researches performed in medical sciences usually apply quantitative method to show the relationship and interdependence of variables related to human health and various infections and illnesses (Ulin, Robinson and Tolley 2004). Quantitative research is applied mainly in the research topics such as psychology to test the hypotheses based on data taken from different samples (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). The numerical data is usually obtained through questionnaires or interviews as per the requirements of the research project. Later on, various mathematical or statistical techniques are applied to analyse this data to test the research hypotheses (Goddard and Melville 2004). Statistical methods such as correlation, covariance and regression analysis are also used to find the type of relationship among the variables of the econometric models build on the basis of theory (Gujarati 2004).

Advantages and Limitations

There are many advantages of using the quantitative approach of research. Data which is quantitative in nature takes less time to collect; interpret and record than that of other types of data (K. Jensen 2002). The changes in the relevant variables, if any, can be easily identified and measured from time to time (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). Quantitative data provide a more objective explanation of given scenario which is very helpful for the researcher and any subsequent users of the research to believe its authenticity and impartiality (K. Jensen 2002). Major limitation to the quantitative approach is the over simplification of results which means that the quantitative measures may not reflect precisely the needed information (Kumar 1997). Another shortcoming of the quantitative approach is its application to generalised situations of the real world (Mallette and Duke 2004). The data used in quantitative approach would have to be objective (Goddard and Melville 2004). The data which cannot be measured numerically or statistically would not yield any useful results (Colwell 2002). The research carried out using quantitative approach is conducted in a controlled environment and the statistical or numerical results may be specific to the research at hand and would not have a tendency to be applied to generalised situations (Mallette and Duke 2004). The quantitative approach restricts the focus of the research to specific variables in a situation and other significant variables may be overlooked (Balnaves and Caputi 2001).

3.2.2 Qualitative Approach to Research

As discussed earlier the quantitative approach to research tests an assumed hypothesis. On the other hand, the qualitative approach to research establishes a new hypothesis (Ulin, Robinson and Tolley 2004). This approach describes and gives meanings to life experiences and provides denotations to these experiences to increase insight on different issues (Maxwell 2005). The approach is used in research to study the richness, intensity and density of a certain phenomenon (Maxwell 2005). Researcher applying the qualitative approach to research must possess good interpretation, concept building and creative thinking skills (Silverman 2002). This approach to research is appropriate for research studies in social sciences, finance and economics (Jensen 2002). It is based on various beliefs such as there is more than one forms of reality which varies with the perception of people and with time as well. Our knowledge is meaningful only to a specific context or situation (Kumar 1997). Thus the personal perception of the researcher plays a very important role in the qualitative approach to research which requires the researcher’s ability to think creatively and structure ideas accurately (Mallette and Duke 2004).

Advantages and Limitations

The qualitative approach like quantitative approach also has its rewards and drawbacks. The qualitative approach is more flexible and can be changed according to a situation unlike the quantitative approach (Roberts and Burke 2000). The researcher in qualitative research is more involved in the research process as compared to the quantitative approach (Burns and Grove 2004). The open ended questionnaire developed in the qualitative approach enables the participants to provide explanations and answers reflecting in-depth knowledge and creativity (Burns and Grove 2004). Weaknesses of this approach include the biasness of researcher and the participants towards any of questions or the research hypotheses (Harrison 2001). Another significant disadvantage of this approach is the subjectivity and partisanship (Mallette and Duke 2004). This means that if the research is carried out using the same sample it may yield fluctuating results. Limited scope of this research method is another drawback of qualitative research.

3.3 The Primary Data

Primary research or field research is the process of collecting data that don’t exist at the time of research, by keeping in mind the specific objectives in mind (Goddard and Melville 2004). The tools which are typically used for this purpose are the questionnaires, telephone calls, in-depth interviews and focus group surveys (Goddard and Melville 2004). For example, a primary market research involves the collection of data to know the trend of a particular customers’ segment or demand for a particular type of product (Goddard and Melville 2004). This primary data provides a foundation for the research work and analysis (Goddard and Melville 2004).

Advantages of Primary Research

There are a lot of advantages of collecting the primary data for research purposes such as the data relevant to a particular research problem, greater control and authenticity (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). First advantage of this research is the researcher’s need for having some specific and relevant information which cannot be obtained through the secondary sources (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). Second major advantage is that a researcher has more degree of control on designing the research questions and obtaining relevant information as compared to the secondary research (Goddard and Melville 2004). Researcher also has control on the size of research project, on the number respondents and the geographical area where the research is going to be conducted. Thirdly, contrary to the secondary research, where there are the chances that research team may not get the appropriate information even after spending the large amount of money; in the primary research there are greater chances that the research team will get the exact amount of information with greater level of accuracy and efficiency (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). Where this efficiency helps to reduce the cost of research project, it also helps to improve the results of research work (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). The data obtained can also be made available for other related researches and thereby eliminating the need to collect data time and again. Fourthly, the data collected through primary research become the property of the owner (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). So he or she has the legitimate right to sale it to some other researchers or offer it free for further researcher and analysis.

Disadvantages of Primary Research

The main disadvantages of the primary research emerged in the shape of huge cost, a lot of time consumption and doubtful feasibility etc. (Goddard and Melville 2004).

Firstly, main disadvantage is the huge amount of expense incurred to collect the primary data as compared to the secondary data (Goddard and Melville 2004). It is due to the involvement of expert in designing the questionnaires, the distribution cost and the cost of collecting the answers for respondents (Goddard and Melville 2004).

Second main disadvantage is the immense amount of time consumption (Goddard and Melville 2004). Designing the right, making research plan and putting the pertinent questions in the questionnaire, conducting research, analyzing the data and reaching at some useful conclusions require the large amount of time and diligence of experts (Goddard and Melville 2004). Thirdly, there is the issue of feasibility, which means that the information which is necessary for the usefulness and authenticity of the research work is not available or available at very high cost (Goddard and Melville 2004). In such types of situations, the data collected from a sample firms may not truly represent the population.

3.4 The Secondary Data

Secondary data is the kind of data which was collected according to the previous research requirements and is now available for further research and analysis (Balnaves and Caputi 2001). It was collected based on different aims and objectives which may be different from the current research (Balnaves and Caputi 2001).

3.5 Sources of Secondary Data

There many sources of secondary data such as books, trade journals and periodicals, libraries and peer reviewed journal articles such as the emerald and journal of finance etc. Internet is a valuable tool which is mostly used for this purpose. There are various organisational and governmental websites which provide authentic and reliable data (Balnaves and Caputi 2001).

Advantages and disadvantages

The main disadvantage of a secondary research is that the aims and objectives of secondary data may be quite different from the current research which could make the whole data useless for in progress research. Another shortcoming of secondary data is that it is quite difficult to search and find relevant information because limited sources available for relevant and recent data. The accuracy and reliability of available secondary data is also an important issue. Secondary data utilised in research work should be obtained from reliable and authentic sources for the validity of research work.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks that exist in secondary data, researchers still utilise secondary data in research work regularly as there are various benefits for researchers in secondary data. The most attractive part is the cost effectiveness of secondary data because it is quite economical to collect secondary data from various sources such as libraries, books, internet and journals. Another benefit of using secondary data is the time efficiency because researcher can collect data from secondary sources very quickly. Hence researchers focus on data collection methods which not only save valuable time but also cut down costs of the research work.

3.6 Proposed Research Strategy

In order to conduct a useful research, a researcher must choose a particular approach for research out of the various methods available for research. For this research, researcher has decided to use a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Main rational of choosing a mix of both the quantitative and qualitative methods is that it helped the researcher to take benefits of both approaches and to avoid their disadvantages.

The researcher has actually decided to collect primary data through research questionnaire containing both the quantitative and qualitative questions. Among the quantitative type questions, Likert scale based questions are prominent which helped the researcher to have an objective and unbiased findings of research. In the qualitative section, open ended questions are included so that the valuables comments of educational experts can be gathered and analysed.

Previous researches conducted on this topic have been proved very useful in this research because they provided the basis and impetuous for current research. After collecting the data, data is properly arranged according to the definite format so that it can easily be inserted into data analysis software to obtain meaning results. Then the results are described and interpreted in the light of theoretical foundations set in the literature review section of this paper.

3.7 Ethics

In my study, as all the required information is disclosed to public and insider information is excluded in my framework, therefore, no ethical problem against particular organization’s privacy is considered. Furthermore, it is an important aspect of ethics that reporting the findings in objective and honest manner. Manipulating the data to get the perfect result brings meaningless and no benefit to me. Therefore, ethical problem in my study is considered as minimal.

Time Line of Research Project













Submission of proposal









Literature Review and further research









References and Appendices collection









Collecting the Data (50% complete to data)









Research Methodology Elaboration









Proposal results









Amendments to project based on examiners comments









Data Compilation









Requesting and receiving feedback from blackboard









Data Analysis and Evaluation









Summarizing findings and Write Up









Review of study and any further actions


















Proof reading(ongoing)









Final editing, printing, and binding









Project Submit








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