11 February 2014

Billing your Customers: The Advantages and Disadvantages of School Billing

Hello it's Will here and welcome to the first in a series of blogs about billing your customers. As we all know there is no right or wrong way to do this and there are many variations employed by music services across the UK. In this series of blogs I want to analyse each of the different options, looking at their strengths and drawbacks.

Firstly, let’s look at billing schools for teachers’ time. This process is used by at least half of all music services I come across, and has one obvious strength. Essentially, if you bill schools, you have fewer customers and accounts to deal with therefore you can have a smaller administration team. You don’t need to have a full register for the lesson as it does not affect the bill, which again reduces the administration requirements. The smallest administration setups I come across with music services are those with minimal parental billing.
Unfortunately, despite the above strengths, billing schools directly is not always the easiest route for music services. With the Arts Council data returns demanding statistics on pupils in lessons, many services that have billed schools for several years don’t have the infrastructure to accurately collect, store and analyse this information. There have been ways around this that I have come across. The most common solution involves asking for either pupil names or statistics from the schools themselves however this only works if schools have the time to send over the data. Another option is to find out the year group of the pupils in the lessons at your schools and then request statistics or pupil information on these pupils from your central pupil database. This option however is not really appropriate for trusts as these organisations generally do not have a close enough connection to their local authority.
When thinking about billing schools it’s also important to consider that it isn’t only music services who are having to juggle more work for less funding. Schools are looking to establish greater efficiency in their administration too and I’m increasingly coming across situations where they have cancelled contracts with music services. With increased hourly rates from the music services and reduced time for their admin teams, many schools are no longer able to both invoice the parents themselves and provide statistics for the music service.
I am sure that there are some positives and negatives that I have missed in the above analysis, please feel free to comment or email me at will@paritor.co.uk if you think there are any areas that I have not included. If you bill schools, how have you been able to solve these issues? Let us know as there are plenty of services out there who would like to hear any solutions you have found to be successful!
Thanks for reading, in the next instalment of this blog, I will be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of billing parents directly.




  1. We bill schools & academies direct - the schools are sent a billing report and then we automatically 'journal' the amounts from the schools cost centres. The academies we have to raise invoices to which is sent to our SLA department to complete this process.
    We have found that some of the schools do not keep track of parents payments and of children who are having lessons. We have also had emails from schools wanting refunds for undelivered lessons when we have a teacher off sick. You cannot pull in a supply teacher at last minute to cover a specialised music lesson like you would if a classroom teacher was off sick.
    We have found it sometimes impossible to make these lessons up due to the fact that we have our teachers working all the weeks and days of the term. We currently bill schools and academies 36 weeks of the year leaving only a couple of weeks for training or extra ensembles/concerts. It is difficult to cut the weeks we bill as we need the revenue in from the schools to fund the Music Service.
    It is very much a chicken and egg situation, do you take on the extra responsibility and bill parents direct and sort out the problems with parents your self and keep the schools happy and stress free, or do you carry on leaving it to the schools to deal with parental billing and complaints.
    Also what do other services do when they have staff off sick ? We had to re-imburse schools over £2000 last term due to a member of staff being off long term sick,and other odd days that staff were unable to teach due to being sick, which obvioulsy has an effect on income.
    Thank you

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