The eye of the recruitment storm?

The National Governance Association (NGA) published its latest survey last Friday https://www.nga.org.uk/News/NGA-News/Key-findings-of-NGA-TES-annual-school-governance-s.aspx Carried out in association with the TES, it not surprisingly reveals governors worried about funding pressures and thus supports the view taken by this blog over the past twelve months.

The DfE has now published the individual school by school potential outcomes of the Mark 2 National Funding Formula. I have had a quick look at the Oxfordshire schools and the change in the method of calculation has produced some improvements, in that no school is now forecast to be facing a reduction in funding.

However, the bulk of the primary schools seemingly only face a per pupil increase of around 1%. This is not enough to fend off rising costs and will be a real problem when the pay rise eventually kicks in if it isn’t fully funded. With all the promises Labour is making at their conference, it is difficult to see how they can fund a public sector pay rise with additional cash. A Conservative government might not find it much easier either unless they can identify some new sources of funding.

Funding pressures two to three years out means that the future for small schools is still in doubt under NFF Mark 2 and the two main churches with schools across the country may face a real challenge if the present distribution of primary schools is no longer sustainable.

I was interested to see that the governors questioned thought this year had been easier in terms of recruitment, but not by much. In view of the better recruitment in 2016 to teacher preparation courses and the record numbers on School Direct and Teach First courses such a finding probably wasn’t a great surprise.  2018 may not be as easy a recruitment if the predictions already aired by this blog are accurate in terms of trainee numbers, unless the squeeze on funding really does mean schools reducing their staffing levels as some governors questioned suggested will be the outcome.

Towards the end of next month the DfE expects to reveal the Teacher Supply Model data that will underpin the allocations to 2018 preparation courses and hence numbers likely to be available to fill teaching positions in September 2019 and January 2020. By that year, the increase in secondary school rolls should really be underway, so the funding debate will really be starting to make a difference.

Should school-based training numbers reduce, as may happen this year, then more schools will be recruiting in the open market. That at least would be good news for those providing recruitment services, unless the DfE has stepped in by then with its own service. Taking recruitment away from the private sector clearly fits in with labour’s narrative, but seems less easy to sell to Conservatives stepped in the tradition of the free market.

Either way, the price of recruitment should be on the way down: good news for hard pressed schools and another win for modern technology.

 

Advertisements

Does democracy matter?

The evidence published today by the DfE on achievements by some schools within some academy groups https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/multi-academy-trust-performance-measures-2015-to-2016 is of course interesting, even with the caveats surrounding it.

However, as academies move from novelty innovation to mainstream feature of our school system there are substantial questions to be asked about their impact on the education scene across England. The most fundamental question, and one that both the two main political parties have always avoided, is whether or not local democratic involvement in education is helpful or a waste of time and money? Regular readers of this blog will know where I stand: firmly in the localism court.

Over the past year, since the publication of the White Paper in March, with its view of a fully academised system, to the recent announcement of a role for local authorities as envisaged in the funding of SEN (discussed in the previous post) there seems to have been some change of thinking. Should we consider Multi-Academy Trusts as playing a similar role to the diocese under the former system and academies as a new form of national school, but not very dissimilar to the existing voluntary aided sector.

The real question is whether there are to be two parallel but separate schools systems, one national one more local, but both funded nationally or should there be a recognition that some facets of schools are best handled locally for all schools. A move to reassure councils that in-year admissions were to return to them for all schools with associated funding might be a useful signal of the direction of travel. A second would be to require MATs to have a local authority representative as a trustee. A third might be to break up the role of director of Children’s Services back into a social work role and plus a separate education role. This would certainly help with creating career routes for professionals from both backgrounds.

Personally, I would also like to ensure there aren’t diseconomies of scale that can result when MATs are responsible for schools in many different geographical areas. The advantage of working with local authorities for the DfE is that Regional School Commissioners could be located within the Education Funding Agency and act as Territorial Principals used to do in the days when schooling was a partnership between central and local government. Local Education Scrutiny Committees could be widened to include more than just governor and faith group representatives to encompass the different interest groups, much as former Education Committees used to do before Cabinet government was invented.

What is clear is that the present muddle in the governance of schooling won’t help ensure the improvement of all schools to reach new high standards Britain will need to compete in a world where we have chosen to ‘go it alone’ and break with our continental neighbours. At least the return of FE & HE to the DfE means there is one department at Westminster with responsibility of the whole of education again. But, responsibility doesn’t mean taking operational control, nor does it mean a fully market-based system with no local democratic involvement.

Leaders to pick the qualities needed of their successors

The Prime Minister may consider England a Christian country, but one wonders whether his Education Secretary, of Scottish heritage, agrees with his leader on this point. His recent announcement of a review of leadership standards for head teachers, a term now generally concatenated in to a single word, is singularly light on expertise in leading faith run primary schools; Christian or otherwise, despite their importance to the school system. But then the review group also lacks any obvious member from higher education, despite the work of staff at the London Institute, Cambridge university, and Roehampton University, to mention but a few of the many universities that have worked in this area for many years. Presumably, the government places higher value on practitioners rather than on thinkers and researchers, especially in the education field. Even Roy Blatchford, a member of the group and possibly a key adviser to David Laws, even though he isn’t known to be a Liberal Democrat, was a former head teacher.

At least the special school sector is represented on the group, but it is questionable why, if this complex sector needs but one representative, the more straightforward tasks of running primary and secondary schools need so many more leaders to discuss the standards required of their successors. Fortunately, the token governor comes from a community school to balance the three representative from academies, whether convertor of as part of chains. The apparent omission of anyone from a free school or the new breed of 14-18 technical schools may mean that the debate is not as wide ranging as it perhaps ought to be, but we shall see.

How radical the group will be at this end of a parliament when, unless their suggestions can be introduced by ministerial fiat, there won’t be time for legislation to alter existing rules will be interesting. Will they stray into territory more appropriately the ground of the School Teachers’ Review Body, currently in search of a new Chair following the current incumbents move to another Quango after just two years in office.

One area that really does need review is the nature and purpose of Executive Heads, and where headship ceases and a different sort of leadership takes over. The Americans have this line delineated between Principals and Superintendants, and historically here it was between heads and Education Officers. But, with many heads now earning more than Directors of Children’s Services despite many fewer responsibilities the present system is clearly in need of an overhaul.

At least the gender balance of the review group has been weighted in the right direction, although one might have welcomed the presence of a middle leader juggling a young family and a career to be able to talk about current pressures on career development, especially for late entrants to the profession.

After the abolition of the mandatory NPQH the group might start by asking the Secretary of State whether he actually believes in national standards of performance assessment and recruitment, and if so whether that is for all qualified staff or just leaders of schools, however defined. Headship is not a task for the faint hearted, and the group might ponder what might make recruitment, especially in primary schools, easier than it traditionally has been. However, without an obvious Roman Catholic on the group, it is doubtful whether they will reach a helpful answer.