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Do you know the true cost of paper at your school?

  Jocy Levy     Oct 31, 2016

The environmental, monetary and time savings your school can make by going paperless.

Paper cuts are no one’s idea of fun! They arrive uninvited and always leave us wondering how something so small can be so painful. But did you know there is a different kind of paper cut – the kind of paper cut your school can make itself, saving money, time and the environment in the process? Now that we’re on the same page…(Let’s try to avoid any more paper-based puns from now on)

The amount of paper that the average school wastes may shock you. As stated by the Department for Education, paper and card makes up 30% of a primary school’s annual waste and 39% of a secondary’s. But that’s hard to contextualise unless you know quite how much paper is going through your school’s front door every single year.

According to Ray Fleming, then Microsoft’s UK Education Marketing Manager, the average secondary school pupil gets through around 1,000 sheets of paper per year. For a typically sized school that would be around, or even slightly over, 1 million sheets. On a leading online retailer, 1 million sheets of A4 paper costs £8,800. But it gets worse – that equates to approximately 125 trees. If this was the time for another paper pun we could say how “tearable” it is. However this is serious and it really is terrible.

We’ve examined the environmental cost and the monetary cost, but what about the human cost of paper in schools? Well, in the Government Response to the Workload Challenge in February 2015,, it transpired that tasks associated with paperwork are taking up far too much of school staffs’ time. Teaching staff reported that there are many opportunities to reduce their workload, and lots of these can be addressed by looking at their paperwork. 56% said that recording, inputting, monitoring and analysing data presented an opportunity to reduce workload, and 41% said the same about the generally over-bureaucratic nature of their work.

So, what can be done about this? Well, the government wants every school to be a ‘sustainable school’ by 2020, and one of the requirements of this status is that your school has a commitment to “care for the environment”. The government recommends that to achieve this you become a “model of purchasing and waste”. This means that you practice waste minimisation wherever possible and that you procure ethically produced school supplies where you can. It states that this will then in turn “increase value for money by reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling as much as possible”.

Reducing your paper usage and wastage at school is really not as hard or as big a task as it may sound. Here are some suggestions to get you started right away:

  • Make double-sided (duplex) printing and photocopying the norm. If necessary, train staff and pupils on how to do this and place reminders by the machines. If your current school printers and copiers don’t facilitate duplex printing, (however, most do) you will certainly find that the initial investment pays for itself in no time.
  • Encourage pupils to use individual whiteboards instead of paper where appropriate. This could be at the start of a lesson when you do a warm up or starter exercise or for brainstorming at the beginning of a group project.
  • Buy recycled paper, kitchen towels, napkins and toilet paper wherever possible. Don’t panic – recycled loo roll hasn’t been loo roll before! It’s recycled from normal paper, or made from a by-product of the sugar production industry.
  • Go paperless where possible! It’s easier (and cheaper!) than you may think. In terms of the students, encouraging them to use the computer for school tasks has a whole host of benefits. Typing is an invaluable skill and is only going to get more important as society progresses, so ensuring they have this mastered young is crucial. Research, creating presentations and making art are all things that children can successfully complete on the computer whilst also acquiring new skills.

For school staff, going paperless will sound daunting. But remember the 56% of teachers that said recording, inputting, monitoring and analysing data could be addressed to reduce their workload? Think of that, alongside all the letters, forms, permission slips and reminders that go home every single day to the children and their families. There are things that make this possible without the use of a single piece of paper…

ParentPaperwork is a recent addition to the Groupcall Messenger Ecosystem, and it’s our answer to the admin-heavy, inefficient, expensive and environmentally damaging millions of sheets of paper schools get through every year. It negates the need for your school to send any paper forms home to parents, as it gives you the ability to do it all online. Every form you produce is fully customisable and can be sent to as many parents as you need to in minutes. All responses that come in from parents can be analysed and exported automatically, reducing the administrative, bureaucratic work that teachers and other school staff find “burdensome”, according to the aforementioned Government Response to the Workload Challenge.

So not only are you helping the environment, but you are lessening a significant part of your workload and also never need to worry again that a letter will get squashed in a bookbag and not make it home!

At only 50p per pupil per year it’s also going to save your school significant amounts of money, especially compared to the £8,800 that 1 million sheets of paper costs the average secondary school.

Once your school has implemented these paper reduction methods, there’s only one thing left to do. Make sure you are recording and reporting your school’s successes to anyone and everyone! Keep track of how much time and money you are saving since cutting back on paper and write about it in your newsletters (emailed home instead of printed of course!), let your local papers know and put it all over the school website. You’re saving the planet and it’s only right that everyone knows it!

See? I told you paper cuts weren’t all bad!

Do leave a comment below to let us know about your school’s paper habits and if you plan on trying to reduce them. Did the facts in this blog surprise you?

If you would like a free, no obligation trial of ParentPaperwork at your school please click here and fill out the form. A member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.


Jocy Levy

Written by Jocy Levy

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