More evidence of funding pressures on schools

At the start of the holiday season the DfE has issued a raft of both data in the form of a statistical bulletin and other publications. The most interesting concerns academies in general and specifically examples where threats of termination or other action against specific academies have been made public, possibly in some cases for the first time.

In terms of the income and expenditure of academies not in multi-academy trusts, but operating as single academies published as part of this information, it is only worth looking at the data in the round because of the changing nature of the sector as more schools, especially in the primary sector transfer from maintained to academy status and other move form single academy status to become part of a multi-academy trust.

One figure stands out in the data for the year 2015/16. This is fact that across all classes of academy expenditure exceeded income for the first time: a sign of the growing cost pressures on schools.

Sector                   Income/                               Media expenditure         Number of schools                                       Expenditure                       Per pupil

Primary                 I                                                 £4,791                                 787

E                                                £4,824

Secondary            I                                                 £5,714                                 984

E                                                £5,968

Special                   I                                               £22,321                   77

E                                              £22,409

All Through          I                                                 £6,104                                   56

E                                                £6,285

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/633153/SFR32_2017_Main_Text.pdf  SFR 32/2017

Now, even allowing for the fact that schools in Multi-Academy Trusts are excluded from the table, because of the issue of handling their central overheads: those costs previous governments always vilified local authorities for charging – there are enough schools to illustrate the cost pressures facing the sector that will almost certainly only have only worsened in the 2016/17 financial year now ending.

A more detailed look at the median income and expenditure for this group of single academy trusts between 2014/15 and 2015/16 reveals a slight fall in grant income per pupil even before the effects of inflation are taken into account. Primary schools seem to have been able to offset this fall by increasing self-generated income.

On the expenditure side, staffing costs generally increased, with expenditure of teaching staff increasing by around £70 per pupil across the 1,700 or so mainstream schools. Interestingly, supply teacher expenditure fell in these schools between 2014/15 and 2015/16, although not by a significant amount. The most noticeable reductions in expenditure were on back office costs; unidentified ‘other’ costs; non-ICT learning resources and energy costs. This distribution of reductions reflects that witnessed during the reduction in funding for schools early in the 1980s discussed in a previous post on this blog.

The concern must be that the longer funding per pupil comes under pressure the harder it will be for schools to maintain their upward direction of travel in expenditure on staff. It would not surprise me to see non-teaching staff costs either stagnate or even reduce when the figures for 2016/17 are published this time next year. Schools are likely to try to protect expenditure on teaching staff at all costs, but it is difficult to see how they can do so even after only one per cent pay increases to all staff without an injection of funds that at least matches the increase in the staffing costs of schools.

The next question to address, is whether schools in MATs spend more or less than single academy trust schools on the different categories of expenditure and specifically how their median expenditure of teaching staff per pupil compares with the median for single academy trusts? But, that’s for another post.

Making education greener not Greening

The government’s change of heart on renewable energy production, one might call it a –U- turn in some respects, is obviously welcome news. But, what part can schools play in this new order of local power generation and the regulation of consumption at source?

I have long argued that many outside spaces in schools are the least used public asset in the country. Playgrounds are barely used in term-time in most schools and in most cases lie entirely dormant during the holiday periods. A national scheme to use these for ground source heating and other power and heating sources would surely be cost effective. Such a scheme, allied to battery storage and other possible renewable technologies, where applicable, could be funded through a community bond scheme where the returns were shared between the investors and the school on a sliding scale agreed in advance.

Brokering a national scheme with set costs and the most effective construction methods taking the least amount of time is a responsible role for the DfE, although they could offer it out to tender for all academies and free schools as a start. It could also include retrofitting rainwater collection and even green roofs, where they were possible.

I always thought this type of initiative would have been a vote winner for the Lib Dems in the coalition. They should have pushed small scale public works during the aftermath of the recession rather than big schemes such as Swansea Bay tidal power project, where finding the money was always going to be a challenge. But, the Ministers didn’t seem to agree with my view.

An even more radical scheme would be to encourage teachers and other employees in schools to purchase electric cars or cycles and to offer free re-charging at the school site, powered by the renewable energy wherever possible. Perhaps we could start with a scheme for school minibuses?

An audit of school freezer electricity consumption would be an interesting starting point to assess how much money could be saved by fitting an in-line interruptible electricity supply that turned off during peak power demand periods. If filled in-line, the freezers themselves wouldn’t need to be changed until the time came for them to be updated.

All these ideas require Ministers with a degree of vision beyond the normal scope of such officeholders. That’s why local authorities are so important for education. They offer a more manageable geographical area where ideas can be tried and tested and then expanded to cover the country as a whole. Centralising innovation, as has been the principle method of operation for the past forty years may work, as with the national strategies, but can also lead to disasters, such as making the teaching profession feel undervalued, with all the inevitable consequences for recruitment and retention.

The Secretary of State should embrace the announcement from the Business Secretary and use it as means to show she has the best intentions for the education service at heart. It would certainly be more popular than the decision this time last year to focus on selective education as the way forward.

Most women earn less than men in teaching

With the revelation of top salaries at the BBC showing such large differences between what is paid to men and women in the best paid positions in the corporation I thought it worth looking at the data about salaries for teachers in state-funded schools in England. The details can be found in the School Workforce Census taken every November. The latest information is from November 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2016 The data is only as good as that submitted by schools and tends to lump part-time and full-time workers together in the same table. As there are probably more women working part-time in the older age-groups this may have some effect on the average salary in some age groups. In total, there were around 110,000 part-time teachers and school leaders working in schools in November 2016, not counting short-term supply teachers that are excluded from the data.

Young women under the age of 30 earn on average more than their male compatriots. The exact amount of the difference varies between sectors and type of school, but overall, women under 25 average £400 more per year than men and those between 25-29 £500 more in salary. That is the point where the picture changes and men start earning more on average than women. By their late 40s, women are, on average, earning some £5,400 per year less than men. Men average £46,700 and women £41,300 per year. Neither group is earning enough to support a mortgage on a house or flat in many parts of the country, even if you were to add in the London salary uplift.

Interestingly, there is a similar differential in favour of men among head teachers. Although there are more than 10,000 women head teachers in primary non-academies, compared with fewer than 4,000 men, their average salary is £1,800 lower than for men. The median difference in head teacher salary is even greater at £2,100. However, as salary is usually linked to school size this may mean more women are heads of the many small primary schools still to be found across England. Whether the National Funding Formula will make many of these small schools financially unviable and affect the promotion opportunities of women teachers is an interesting question.

Among heads of secondary academies, there are 1,600 men compared with 1,000 women. Men earn more in all age groups with average salaries for male head teachers in their 50s exceeding £100,000 and peaking at £109,800 for those in the 55-59 age group. Women in this age group average £105,300, when serving as a head of a secondary academy.

Somewhere around 1,300 head teachers were earning more than £100,000 in November 2016, with another 800 where the salary was unreported that might contain additional high earners. Of these high earners, there were 600 teachers earning in a range from £110,000-£200,000. Salaries above this upper level were regarded as mis-reported. Some might be executive heads of Multi-Academy Trusts that also combined that role with head teacher of a particular school. More clarity on this point would be helpful in encouraging schools to complete the census correctly.

 

 

Rising number of exclusions: a worrying trend

The DfE has published the data for exclusions during the 2015/16 school year. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/permanent-and-fixed-period-exclusions-in-england-2015-to-2016 The number of permanent exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 5,795 in 2014/15 to 6,685 in 2015/16.  The number of fixed period exclusions across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 302,975 in 2014/15 to 339,360 in 2015/16. This corresponds to around 1,790 permanent exclusions per day in 2015/16, up from around 1,590 per day in 2014/15.

These figures are not good news for the government, as it appears that the improvement seem over the last few years is now being undone. The DfE does need to look behind the headline numbers at the schools responsible for the increase and also if the increase has also continued on into 2016/17, where data for the first term should be available.

The problems of this type that affect a relatively small number of schools raise questions about the use of a national funding formula. In Medway, for instance, virtually all the exclusions are in non-selective schools, with many of the local selective schools not excluding any pupils at all. But, if each type of school receives the same funding component to spend on behaviour management, is that balanced off by adjustments in the other direction elsewhere in the budget.

It is these sorts of issues that create the debate about both hypothecation and unrestricted budgets on the one hand and our notions of equality on the other hand. Put both strands together and you have an interesting debate that despite the Pupil Premium does seem to me to be skewed towards a simplistic notion of equality mitigated only by the traditional view that London is an expensive place to live and work in.

Persistent disruptive behaviour remains by far and away the most common reason for both fixed term and permanent exclusions: schools have just come to the end of their tether with the pupil. How long the tether is may differ from school to school, as might the attitude to what is unacceptable behaviour, as schools try to raise the bar on standards of acceptable behaviour. There is a worrying high figure of around 20% where the reason for an exclusion is coded as ‘other’. This is not really acceptable. It may mean there is more than one reasons such as a pupil with generally persistent disruptive behaviour, but the actual exclusion is triggered by another event such as verbal or physical abuse to another pupil or staff member.

As ever, having special need, being on Free School Meals, or from a non-majority ethnic background are all additional risk factors in the likelihood of being excluded. This is despite several years where teacher preparation schemes were supposed to support teachers in schools with large numbers of likely at risk pupils.

Despite concerns in the press and elsewhere, exclusions for either bullying or racist abuse are minimal in the overall totals, although some exclusions may be coded under other headings even where pupils have exhibited this type of anti-social behaviour.

Years 8-10 still account for around 40% of all exclusions, so it is good to see the recent statement about slowing down the timetable for all to study the EBacc. I am sure a better look at the curriculum for this age group can help reduce exclusions where students are being forced to study subjects they no longer value. As ever, more boys are being excluded than girls, especially in terms of permanent exclusions.

TeachVac issues end of term warning

Schools across England will find recruiting staff for unexpected vacancies in January 2018 challenging. This is the message from TeachVac, the free to use job board for teacher vacancies across all schools in England that is already saving schools large sums of money in line with the DfE policy of reducing unnecessary expenditure by schools.

TeachVac is celebrating entering its fourth year of operation. At the end of the summer term of 2017, TeachVac have rated 7 of the 13 secondary subjects it tracks as in a critical state for recruitment. This means that TeachVac is warning schools of recruitment difficulties in these subjects that might occur anywhere in the country and not just in the traditional high risk areas for recruitment.

The high risk subjects are:

English

IT/Computing

Design & Technology

Business Studies

Religious Education

Music

Geography

In the other six subjects tracked in detail by TeachVac, most schools will still find recruitment easier, although any specific demands such as subject knowledge in, for example, a specific period of history will always make recruitment more of a challenge. On the basis of current evidence, TeachVac expects schools will face the least problems in Physical Education and Art where, if anything, there is still some local over-supply against need in some parts of the country.

In Science overall, – but not in Physics and possible Chemistry – Mathematics; Modern Languages overall, but not in certain language combinations, and in History, supply should still be adequate to meet expected demand between now and January 2018.  Because most schools still advertise for teachers of languages and science and only specify within the advert the more detailed requirements it takes longer to analyse the data on vacancies in these subjects and that information is not yet fully available beyond the headline figures.

TeachVac can provide the data in a form useful to schools facing Ofsted inspection where recruitment may be an issue for the inspection team. For local authorities and others interested in the recruitment patterns over the past three years in specific locations and between different types of school such as academies and free schools, TeachVac now has a wealth of data available. TeachVac is also now looking in detail as senior staff appointments and especially leadership posts in the primary sector and the challenges some schools face in replacing a head teacher when they leave. The outcome of that research will form the basis of a further detailed report to follow the posts already written on the topic.

With recruitment to training for courses starting this September still below the level achieved last year, 2018 is also beginning to look as if it will be a challenging recruitment round, especially for schools not involved in training teachers either directly or through tie-ins with other training providers. This blog will update the situation regarding numbers offered places for September at the end of this month and again at the end of August.

 

 

Celebrating school music services

Last evening I attended the Oxfordshire Music Service annual end of year concert. The setting was the lovely one of Dorchester Abbey, although the pews do seem rather harder than a few years ago. Music has played a large part in the post-war education scene. This is despite successive governments from the 1980s onwards often seeing it as a dispensable extra activity. The fact that this was the 75th year the Oxfordshire Music Service has been in operation and it is now working at arm’s length from the local authority is a tribute to all who care about what this type of service can bring to the life of our young people.

Earlier in the afternoon I had been reading the latest briefing note on school funding from the Education Policy Institute. David Laws, the former Schools Minister and sometime Lib Dem MP makes no secret that he doesn’t believe in local democratically elected councils having a role in education funding. The briefing note laments that there was no legislative proposal in the Queen’s Speech to allow a ‘hard’ national funding formula. However, the EPI note suggests that the DfE could still significantly reduce the role of local authorities by the use of secondary legislation.

Now, regular readers will knows that both as a councillor and philosophically I believe locally democratically elected councils have an important role to play in education. I am not opposed to a national funding formula, but it throws up interesting issues if implemented as a ’hard’ national formula. An academy in the North West is to close as it is uneconomic and in deficit. The Multi Academy Trust will hand the lease back to the council that owns the freehold. All well and good, but the school was built by a PFI deal and those payments will presumably continue whether it operates as a school or not. Who should bear the cost, the local council taxpayers or the government? At present, it will be the local taxpayers, probably without any ability to recoup the costs, just as they cannot for additional transport costs that could result from a school closure. Would the government keep activities such as school music services going or be content to just leave them to market forces? I wonder.

The lack of a rational plan for the governance of our schools have been a worrying feature of the past thirty years, ever since central government really started the process of nationalising the schools with the Conservative Grant Maintained Schools.  Sadly, no government has had the courage to do what David Laws would like and fully remove all education from democratically elected councils. Such an outcome would at least have the merit of clear-cut solution.

You really cannot have a system with responsibility but no power. This fact is highlighted by the plight of children taken into care who have no right to a school place if moved to another area for their safety. I am delighted that all Oxfordshire MPs from the three Parties have signed a letter to the Minister highlighting this issue. Our most vulnerable children deserve better than to be not only be taken from their homes but also have their education disrupted, sometimes for months on end.

Who remembers the OHP now?

The Centre for Education Economics has produced an interesting research digest on the ‘Evidence on uses of technology in education’.  http://www.cfee.org.uk/sites/default/files/CfEE%20Annual%20Research%20Digest%202016-17%20-%20web%20version.pdf?mc_cid=9c5c208670&mc_eid=11bc2206a8

Now, the use of technology isn’t new in education and much technology, such as the cassette tape-recorder, banda copiers and the OHP has come, gone and faded into the memories of those of us of certain ages. Throughout the whole of my life, the problem all too often isn’t the technology, but rather the way teachers and others are taught to make use of it in helping the learning process.

If I was still teaching geography, I guess I would have a string of web sites open on my interactive whiteboard to let pupils watch for a magnitude 6 earthquake; a volcanic eruption and at this time of year the development of hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, all so as to engage all my classes in knowing the dynamics of these natural events and possibly encouraging them to find out more. Today, I would have a web cam streaming live from somewhere in the USA celebrating the 4th July. All this is low level motivational use of technology.

I am convinced that data recording can help play an important part in pinpointing where resources are needed, although all too often teachers are required to create and input the data. The next generation of learning technology should address that issue. Indeed, I wonder whether we should be spending the cash currently expended on research into driverless cars into improving the learning process for those we fail at present in our education system. I always wonder whether, with the development of technology we need, those preparing the next generation of teachers are as open to new possibilities and to enthusing the next generation of teachers to be aware of the way the world is changing as I would like them to be.

I first used a word processor in 1979; it revolutionised the work I could undertake for the dissertation I was researching and eventually writing at that time. From mail merging the letters accompanying my questionnaire, to changing spelling mistakes the day before submission, there were lots of small advantages. However, the real benefit was longer to arrange and rearrange my thoughts and analysis to produce a higher standard of writing that would have been much more challenging to achieve with just pen and ink or that other disappeared piece of technology, the typewriter.

This blog would not be possible without the developments in technology and I would only be able to communicate with the outside world if someone, as the TES did in 1998, offered me the opportunity to write a column for their magazine.

Indeed, TeachVac, www.teachvac.co.uk our free to schools and teachers job board is the product of disruptive new technology that has driven down the cost of communicating teaching posts to the audience seeking them out.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Education act, I remain an optimist that technology can improve our lives for the better and reduce the learning deficit some many children still experience, especially at the start of their formal education.

Immediately after writing this post I came across the following BBC video posted today that raises many of the same issues about technology and learning

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-40485293/the-futuristic-school-where-you-re-always-on-camera

Well worth a view.