Today is an important day in the history of the financing of schools; possibly the most important since the 1988 Education Reform Act heralded the introduction of Local Management of Schools. Already, there has been the National Audit Office report on ‘Financial sustainability of schools’. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/financial-sustainability-in-schools/
This Report makes the point that, The Department [DfE] can demonstrate using benchmarking that schools should be able to make the required savings in spending on workforce and procurement without affecting educational outcomes, but cannot be assured that these savings will be achieved in practice.
This is because, as everyone knows, the DfE doesn’t actually operate schools directly, although Regional School Commissioners come much closer to doing so that at any time in the recent history of schooling in England.
TeachVac, the free to use job matching site that could significantly reduce the spending by schools on recruitment advertising and also the cost of using agencies to recruit permanent staff that is a growing feature of the marketplace, is a case in point.
Despite being developed by experts in both teacher recruitment and software design it has been shunned by the DfE and also be teacher associations, some of whom acknowledge support from paid recruitment sites on their own web sites. One association has even refused TeachVac permission to take exhibition space at their annual conference in 2017 on the grounds that’ we have sufficient recruiters exhibiting already’!
With such a playing field it is no wonder that driving down costs in schools has been so difficult. Perhaps, now is the time for a sector-wide task force to examine methods of reducing costs to schools through better procurement. In olden times there were benchmark figures for expenditure issued by bodies such as the Association of Education Committees and other similar national bodies. Indeed, such statistics help me compile my article on ‘variations on local authority provision on education’ way back in 1981 at the start of my career.
With the publication later today of the second stage consultation on a National Funding formula it is interesting to look back at the progress made over the past 35 years and to note that differences in funding between schools and authorities was a big issue even then. When the cake isn’t large enough, it is not surprising to find those that want to eat it fighting over the size of their slice.
If floor and ceilings are included in the funding formula consultation, as expected, then as the NAO Report shows, there will be pain for all. Maybe the DfE hasn’t published the ITT allocations for 2017 as they reflect an acceptance of that pain through reduced funding for employment opportunities for teachers?
What is clear that even if life is marginally easier for some schools after the Funding Formula announcement, for many it will be bad news and a real need to pull together to make savings.