I have been reminded that my last post didn’t explicitly mention the need for a new funding formula for schools. This has been such a long-running saga, started under the Labour government and not brought to a conclusion during the coalition that I confess it slipped my mind. My apologies to the F40 Group of local authorities that have long campaigned for better funding for their parts of England.
I suppose one good thing to emerge from the coalition was that both the Pupil Premium and Universal Infant Free School Meals were funded at the same rate across the whole country and not pro-rata to authorities on their other funding levels for education. There are those that might argue that the funding wasn’t enough, but it was the same for all. However, that doesn’t obviate the need for a coherent plan for education funding that can be justified on a rational basis. Any reforms must accept the consequences of the raising of the learning leaving age to eighteen. In rural areas the continuation of the old transport rules that assumed staying in education post sixteen was an option need urgent reform.
During the election campaign I met sixth formers of all abilities in both further education and schools that had faced considerable challenges to be able to continue their education. With subsidies to rural bus services under renewed threat this is an unfair burden on young people living in the countryside. If we tried to take away the free travel enjoyed in London there would no doubt be a great outcry.
There is no doubt that what funding there is will increasingly be taken up by increased pay. In those parts of the country, notably London and the Home Counties, where recruitment is at its most challenging it won’t take long for teachers to recognise that the new pay freedoms mean they can ask for more in their pay packets and leave it up to school leaders and governing bodies to decide how to manage the consequences of saying ‘no’.
One outcome is likely to be larger classes, especially in the secondary sector. However, judging by the downward trend in pupil-teacher ratios seen in recent years the system should be able to handle some worsening in ratios and larger class sizes. But, that makes planning teacher supply just that bit more difficult, as trainee PE teachers are no doubt finding out to their cost this year.
Schools will have to look for ways to cut costs, and recruitment advertising is one obvious source of savings as we have shown with TeachVac. By providing a free service to secondary schools that now covers promoted posts as well as main scale vacancies we have created a platform that could save school many millions of pounds as well as providing them with more information about the state of the labour market. If you haven’t visited www.teachvac.co.uk they pay a visit and register. The site will shortly be extending to cover leadership vacancies directly input by schools and I will announce that development on this blog as I will our future plans for extending into the primary sector.