Stretching your shoestring budget: PE

Apr 13, 2021

I do love a good bit of shopping. Excellent, us too, but with perennially tight budgets under additional pressure this year, as money is reallocated to assist in other areas of pandemic recovery, you’re going to have to shop even more savvily than usual. With many annual subject budgets renewing after Easter, now might be a good time to start thinking about how to allocate yours.

Absolutely! It all feels a bit overwhelming, though, and I never know how best to approach the process. We’d suggest you start by asking yourself four fundamental questions:

  1. How much money do I have and what is it expected to cover?
  2. How did spending go last year?
  3. What’s on my PE action plan?
  4. What are the priorities for this year’s money?

OK, will do. Could you give me some more details about what each of those questions means? Of course! In the case of the size of your budget and the expectations there are for it, the answers will vary greatly from setting to setting, and it is essential for you to understand the parameters before you start spending. You also need to give careful consideration to what your core budget covers and what you can use your PESP funding for (see this article for more on that).

Good point! And then I should look back at last year’s spending? Absolutely. In our experience, reflecting on how last years’ budget was spent is an essential part of the process. What was worth the investment and what, in hindsight, might have been a waste of money? Did you spend a fortune on a resource that was and is hardly used? Is there an alternative to a disposable resource that would last longer? Is your CPD budget out of control?  This exercise should, very quickly, help clarify your spending priorities for the coming year.

Right, and once I’ve done that, can I start making some concrete decisions about this year’s spending? You can, and that’s where questions 3 and 4 come in, and where you need to rely on that key weapon in every good teacher’s armoury – planning. Start by looking at your action plan and making a list of everything you might potentially need to spend money on. Consider the times of year that resource/organisation renewals fall; whether you want to resource for the whole year now or spread the spending across the year; and if you want a contingency fund.

That all makes sense, but my budget is very tight. Any suggestions on how I can make it go further? There’s no simple solution, unfortunately, but with some careful planning, and an eye on the Subject Leaders’ PE subject page, you can certainly trim your spending without leaving your subject under-resourced. For example:


  • Run your own CPD, or opt for cheaper, online options such as afPE’s free webinars. One of the silver linings to the pandemic is that many CPD offerings have shifted online (often reducing the price)
  • Build connections with subject experts at other primary and secondary schools to help develop and support staff subject knowledge and skills
  • Check if free or reduced CPD is included in any of your subscriptions or memberships e.g. afPE or through your local authority, academy trust or union. Many PE schemes incorporate CPD programmes as part of their offering


  • Coordinate with other subject leaders and share resources and purchases (e.g. PSHE and science budgets can sometimes overlap with PE)
  • Try to complete a resource audit to ascertain where the gaps are and where resources may need replacing, developing or complementing
  • Encourage the use of free quality online PE resources, such as BBC Bitesize, BBC Teach for KS1 and KS2 or teacher-populated sites such as Teaching Ideas

Scheme of work/planning resources:

  • Is planning included with any organisation subscriptions you have?
  • Can you make the case to your head that paying for a day of supply from your budget will allow you to develop schemes of work or planning resources?
  • Can you incorporate curriculum development into staff meetings or CPD days?
  • Ensure any pay-for schemes are value for money – why not ask other subject leaders on Facebook, in groups like this one and this one which schemes they would recommend. Explore schemes for PE on Scheme Support
  • Make use of free resources: many new, free resources have come to light during remote learning

Subject organisation memberships (e.g. afPE):

  • Are you making the most of them?
  • What else do they provide beyond advice (e.g. CPD or resources) that might help you trim your budget elsewhere?

Enrichment events/weeks:

  • Could some of these be funded through PTA or equivalent funds?
  • Could you join up with other curriculum areas?
  • What is available online?

Excellent. Any final thought? Yes! Why not ask staff if they have any wish list items that they think would enhance the subject. You don’t have to buy them, but it might be food for thought.

In a nutshell… Plan early and smartly to ensure you make the most of your financial resources.

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