The BBC are running a story today about school budgets being under pressure http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37860682 although I cannot find under link to new evidence to suggest why the story should suddenly have emerged again today. After all, it isn’t news, but maybe the joint NUT/ATL launch of the website on school funding cuts at http://www.schoolcuts.org.uk/#/ is what has prompted the renewed interest in the issue.
As readers will know, I have long worried about the fate of small schools in the tightening funding climate. These schools saw off the Gove decision to remove any block grant that is needed to help with overheads. A straight per pupil formula would wipe out many remaining village schools and also small infant schools in urban areas. Church schools would be especially badly affected.
However, if the teacher associations are serious about the need for more funding they should also be serious about ensuring schools use the cash they already have as cost effectively as possible. What follows is as near as a rant as you will read on this blog so, if that worries you, don’t read on.
More than two years ago I did the round of teacher associations with my concept of the free vacancy matching service for schools based upon the advances in technology. I was listened to politely by all of them, but that was as far as any interest went, despite the fact that I explicitly made it clear that the aim was to save schools money.
Fast forward to November 2016 and TeachVac has been operating on a daily basis for more than two years, matching teachers and vacancies, all for no cost to either the schools or the teachers. Have the developers of TeachVac seen the teacher associations beating a path to their door to see how their members can save on the millions of pounds they spend on recruitment advertising? Well no, not really, although I did have the first meeting instigated by a teacher association on this issue less than two weeks ago. I understand the caution, after all nobody wants to be associated with a shooting star or a one-day wonder, and they have followed Teachvac’s progress through its regular reports to groups such as SATTAG and its evidence to the Select Committee. But, this is such a major drain on some schools budgets that it might have been something where options could have been explored.
The same can be said for the DfE, although they had more justification to say it wasn’t their concern about how schools spent their money, at least until the White Paper in March expressed an opinion that more should be achieved in the recruitment field by government. The NCTL, Education Funding Agency and Regional School Commissioners, as a group, have also seemingly shown no interest in how schools can save money on recruitment. MATs, on the other hand, have recognised the value of a service such as TeachVac and many of the largest ones have signed up.
If budgets really are coming under pressure, then by all means campaign for more money, but also look to use the existing funds as wisely as possible.