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How to save money in your MFL department

Budgets are tighter and tighter and schools and languages departments are often seeking ways to make savings. Maybe your "magic money tree" is running dry. There was a thread on this issue on the (excellent) MFL Teachers' Lounge Facebook group, so I thought it might to be useful to share the ideas posted there to another audience.

The original question posted was about reducing the photocopying bill, so here are some suggestions which came up plus some of my own about saving money in general:

Number 1 tip
Displaying a worksheet on the board rather than handing it out. This has the merit of getting all pupils to face the front as you model good answers to, say, oral grammar drills. You may get better eye contact from pupils too. They can always write answers on mini-whiteboards, rough paper or in their exercises books. Texts for oral exploitation can be used in this way provided they are clear enough.

  • Cut down the size of worksheets by reducing an A4, putting on an A3, then slicing into four.
  • Handing out one worksheet or learning mat between two for classroom work.
  • Set worksheets on a VLE and have students print them off themselves. Google Classroom is mentioned as one tool for exploiting this approach.
  • Hand out worksheets for oral drilling and collect them back at the end of the lesson for re-use.
  • Tell students that if they lose sheets it is their reponsibility to source a replacement, e.g. from the VLE, website source or a friend. 
  • Do more back-to-back printing. This saves paper, but not so much photocopying cost itself. (The vast majority of cost is on the photocopying not the paper itself.)
  • Only use printed worksheets when they are significantly better than the material in your textbook.
  • Give yourself a rule of "no more than one sheet per lesson."
  • Where you want pupils to have their own sheet for written answers, design sheets so that they can write answers on separate paper or in their books. then collect in the sheets at the end of the lesson for re-use.
  • Use online practice resources when they are effective and cheap (or free), e.g. Languages Online, The Language Gym or Textivate.
Moving beyond the photocopying issue:
  • Working from booklets of worksheets rather than buying expensive textbooks - this involves more photocopying but potentially savings can be made over 5 years. The major problem with this is accessing suitably graded listening material, not to mention that many teachers are wedded to text books, often for good reason. Rebecca Wylie mentioned that at her school they get a diary company HDC to create workbooks from existing worksheets. Parents are charged £3 but students can keep the workbooks. Anyone who doesn't want to buy receives copies to stick in their exercises books. "They work brilliantly," writes Rebecca.
  • Being rigorous in imposing rules about covering (backing) books with brown paper or the right type of plastic. Make sure you monitor it during the year and act if a book starts to look tatty.This can add two or more years to the life of textbooks. If you are a Head of Department you may need to monitor your colleagues' enforcement too.
  • Making sure your school's policy on bags is appropriate for protecting the lifespan of books. If it's inadequate, question it.
  • Only investing in digital resources when you really think they are of benefit. To be anecdotal, I recall rejecting Kerboodle for GCSE because it was both expensive and not very good. On the other hand, Textivate, mentioend above, can be an alternative to using paper exercises and is good value.
  • Only change textbooks when you really need to. Sometimes the latest edition of a book, even if it meets the latest exam specs, may be little better than the old book which can be adapted. 
Any more?


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