More signs of funding woes for some

This week the DfE published the annual update on revenue balances and deficits for schools across England. Once again the data for 2017-18 shows a deteriorating position for many schools. It will also fuel the debate about how London schools are funded compared with those in the rest of the country.

Overall, the figures seem to show schools diverging between those with a surplus and a growing number with a deficit. The percentage deficit as a share of revenue budgets is also increasing, especially among local authority maintained secondary schools. Data for schools that are academies or free schools is published separately and covers a different period of the year to the budgetary cycle for local authority maintained schools.

As a result of the conversion to academy status by some schools, the number of schools in the tables differs from year to year. However, the last two years have seen a slowdown in conversion to academies and there enough schools in each cohort to suggest the trends might be worth monitoring across all schools.

All maintained schools with revenue balances saw those balances, on average, hold steady at 6.3% of revenue (6.4% in 2016/17). However, those schools with deficits saw these increase from 6.3% to 7.3% on average. The number of such schools also increased, despite conversions to academies reducing the overall number of schools in the table this year.

In the primary sector, schools with positive balances slightly increased them as a percentage of income from 7.4% to 7.5% whereas primary schools with deficits saw those widen from 3.5% to 3.9% of income.

There must be more concern over the secondary sector, where those remaining maintained schools with a positive balance saw it decline to just 1.9% of income. The previous year the percentage was 3.0% across all schools. Of even more concern is the 300 or so maintained secondary schools with deficits where the figure increased from 8.4% of income to 9.8%.  Will these deficits increase in future or, as pupil numbers start increasing in the secondary sector, stabilize and eventually reduce in percentage terms?

Might the end of rising pupil numbers in the primary sector lead to an erosion of the relatively more favourable financial position of this sector when compared with the secondary sector? Certainly, the cash injection from the Chancellor in his budget might help at the margins, but, if there is a snap general election in 2019, school funding might just play a part in some contests alongside the dominant issue of Brexit.

Looking at the geographical distribution of schools with large percentage balances compared to income, the North East London area that includes, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking & Dagenham seems to be over-represented with schools showing large percentage balances; several for a number of years. Many schools, and especially secondary schools in f40 authorities will no doubt gaze in amazement at schools where the percentage balance is more than 20% of revenue.  Some might question why the percentage has stayed so high for a number of years in a few schools and whether these schools are producing the best possible outcomes for their pupils.

Personally, I believe that schools revenue is largely to be spent in the year it is received, with cash only set aside into reserves for the consequences of the depreciation of long-term assets to be added to reserves to ensure that these assets can be replaced. I don’t think such reserves require to be more than 50% of revenue, as is the case in a school that has been increasing its percentage each year for the past few years. I would be especially unhappy if that school were saving for a building project at the expense of the education of their present pupils.


Requiem for an Agency

This week saw the final rites for the National College of Teaching and Leadership with the publication on the 5TH December of their final annual report and accounts before the College disappeared from the scene and its functions were re-absorbed into the Department for Education. You can read the report at

Thus ends an era that started with the Teacher Training Agency in the mid-1990s, when QUANGOs were fashionable (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations for those that don’t remember the initials). Tony Blair created a National College and for a period of time mandated that all new head teachers should hold the National Professional Qualification for headship (NPQH). Then came a period of amalgamation and eventually a change in attitude to how government is run. While Regional School Commissions became fashionable, the arm’s length body for the teaching profession that the NCTL was becoming after the demise of the General Teaching Council didn’t fit in with the emerging agenda of the control of schools from Westminster.

As someone that worked at the then Teacher Training Agency for 1997-1998, I can see that the relationship between the Department and its satellite bodies was always fraught with problems. Teach First was a Department creation and for many years the employment-based routes were administered from Sanctuary Buildings or its Manchester outpost rather than by the TTA or its successors.

The quasi arm’s length functions that remain are now under the auspices of the Teacher Regulation Agency. However, even that agency has to see its decisions on disciplining teachers signed-off by a civil servant on behalf of the Secretary of State.

So what did the NCTL do in its final year? The list of tasks in the annual report covered:

  • provided over £286 million funding in the form of bursaries and grants, in order to incentivise recruitment to initial teacher training;
  • ensured that most of the teacher trainees required to meet the needs of schools in England were recruited;
  • delivered a national teacher recruitment marketing campaign;
  • developed and funded a range of routes into teaching;
  • improved National Professional Qualification (NPQ) provision;
  • continued to support participants still to be assessed on the previous NPQ programmes;
  • provided targeted support for continuing leadership professional development;
  • increased the number of teaching schools and system leaders;
  • managed the awarding of Qualified Teacher Status to individuals following an accredited ITT course in England & Wales and overseas; and
  • managed referrals of allegations of serious misconduct against teachers to consider whether individuals should be prohibited from teaching in any school in England.

On all these task, Minister will now have nowhere to hide. This will be especially true if recruitment into the profession falls short of targets set by the Teacher Supply Model. Ministers will now have nobody else to blame but themselves for any shortfall.

In the accounts at the back of the report is the figure spent on advertising and publicity by the NCTL. In the 2016/17 financial year, this was £14.4 million. In 2017/18, the expenditure had increased to £20.4 million, and increase almost £6 million. So, at least one industry is benefiting from the teacher recruitment crisis.


Where teachers are prepared matters

The final post in my series looking at the ITT Census for 2018, published last Thursday, considers the relative fortunes of schools and higher education in recruiting trainees on to teacher preparation courses. When Michael Gove was Secretary of State for Education, the direction of travel was clear: away from higher education as the provider of courses and towards a school-led and based system. How well has that direction of travel survived some three Secretaries of State later?

In the 2018 census the increase in secondary trainees has been concentrated in the higher education and SCITT sectors.

Secondary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference % change
Higher Education 6965 7965 1000 14%
SCITT 1955 2435 480 25%
School Direct Fee 3780 4170 390 10%
School Direct Salaried 1080 905 -175 -16%
Teach First 915 760 -155 -17%
PG apprenticeship na 20    
Total 14695 16255 1560 11%

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

SCITTS continue to flourish, with an increase of a quarter in trainee numbers, whereas the other school-centred courses have not shared in the overall increase in trainee numbers to the same extent, with the most expensive salaried routes experiencing declines in trainee numbers. In the secondary sector, the postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has have only a minimal impact this year.

In the primary sector, where recruitment controls were more important, there has been far less change between this year and last year.

Primary 2017 Census 2018 Census Difference
Higher Education 5660 5605 -55
SCITT 1390 1565 175
School Direct Fee 3350 3365 15
School Direct Salaried 1690 1830 140
Teach First 410 395 -15
PG apprenticeship na 70  
Total 12500 12830 330

Source DfE Data Table 1a and Table 9 ITT census 2018

In the primary sector, higher education seems to be still less favoured than the school-based routes; with both SCITTS and the School Direct Salaried routes recording more trainees than last year. The postgraduate teaching apprenticeship route has more primary participants than secondary, but its first year has not made a significant contribution to the supply of new teachers.

Overall across both sectors, SCITTs are under-represented in the London area. This may partly be because London schools have the most School Direct Salaried and Teach First new entrants, accounting for more than one third of those on both routes. By contrast, the South West that participates in both programmes has relatively few numbers on either of these routes into teaching and nearly 60% of new entrants in the region are on higher education programmes.

Teach First seemed especially good at recruiting me to primary courses, achieving a three per cent higher outcome than other routes this year, but, by contrast, especially poor at recruiting me to secondary courses, achieving only a 31% outcome, compared with the 40% of trainees figure for high education courses.

Where higher education excels is in recruiting new graduates. Of course, the School Direct Salaried route is not open to new young graduates, but compared with the routes that take all-comers, higher education recruits the higher percentage of those under 25, accounting for 50% of the higher education intake this year: albeit down from 51% last year, a warning sign for the future. SCITTS only recruited 45% of their intake for the under 25s, perhaps signifying the importance of their more local recruitment focus, in many areas with a high percentage of career changers.

With the number of eighteen year olds dropping for the next few years, while the demand for new secondary teachers will be increasing, as the school population increases, nurturing the young new graduate market may well be important: that might mean a re-assessment of fees and other support for all trainees.

However, should the Bank of England’s predictions for 2019 and the years following any departure from the EU prove correct in terms of the economy, it is possible that teaching might once again seem like an attractive career in an unstable world: after all, there will always be children to educate.


I need convincing about this idea

As long-time readers of this blog will know, the education of children taken into care has long been a concern of mine. The problem of having to change school both mid-year and unexpectedly has sometimes been further exacerbated by the unwillingness of some academies to take such children when they apply for admission.

As a result, I view this story in the Sunday Telegraph that was brought to my attention by the LGiU cuts service I receive as a Councillor with somewhat missed emotions

Cared-for children to receive private school bursaries

Children in care will be given discounted places at private schools from next September. Children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi said scholarships and bursaries would be made available for disadvantaged children, with ten regional hubs comprising councils, social workers and public schools to be established to start placing the children with private schools. Bursaries provided jointly by councils and schools on a 40/60 split will be used to pay for their full-time education. Other cared-for children will also be able to enrol in debating clubs, drama classes, get help with university applications or have sports and music coaching, while remaining at their state schools.
The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 8

I wonder if these bursaries will only apply to children entering such schools in September at the start of the school year. If so, the children will be taken from whatever arrangements have been made for them already and put into yet another environment where they have no links. Could it work if these were day schools and the children could remain with their foster families or other placements? I am less certain if these were boarding schools. However, that would seem like the most attractive option at first sight, especially if schools paid 60% of the boarding fees. But the question then arises, what happens during the holidays? Do these children return to foster parents required to keep a space for them during term-time, but not paid for doing so? Any other alternative might mean the scheme costs more than present arrangements and that is only worthwhile if one has no faith in the state system of education. Might it also create a new form of children’s homes if they remained at the schools during the holidays?

Overall, the sentiment of the article could be read to suggest that children in care are neglected either by the staff in the homes, where a small minority reside these days, or by their foster families. In fact, many are very good at helping to build the non-academic skills of these children as the regular presentations by the Children in Care Council members to the Corporate Parenting Panel at Oxfordshire County Council can testify. That is not to acknowledge that extra cash will not be helpful. My preference would be to help combat the loneliness of those young adults leaving care and to support them through the especially challenging years of their lives, from 18-25.

Furthermore, the activities listed in the Sunday Telegraph article seem a bit skewed towards the 50% of society that will go to university and miss out on the other half. That is unless sport coaching involves all sports. Centres such as the Riverside Centre for Outdoor Learning in Oxford already do these confidence building. As they say of their work:

We work with learners (of any age) in a wide range of activities from sea kayaking to fairy cake making, from mountain walking to pizza cooking. When someone refers a young person, family, or even a team to us, we focus on what outcomes need to be worked towards. This approach gives us the best opportunity for success and is also the best way to achieve impact. Many of the young people who we work with lack confidence around learning and one of our key tenets is to work with the learner to show that they can be a ‘capable and a good learner’. We also provide accreditation opportunities (both internal and external). Accreditation is vital for young people who have not achieved in school, have low self-esteem or need confidence. It gives them something to put on their CV, or to talk about in an interview for college or work.

I would not want that work damaged by the new scheme just because it seems like a good idea to someone in Whitehall to involve the private school sector.