Job Done Mrs May

We will create a single jobs portal, like NHS Jobs, for schools to advertise vacancies in order to reduce costs and help them find the best teachers.                                                         Conservative Party Manifesto page 51

Good news for the Conservatives: this already exists and is free – TeachVac is now the largest teacher job site in England and is free to all users; schools to place vacancies and teachers and returners to locate jobs that meet their needs.

So, Mrs May, pick up the phone and call the team in Newport Isle of Wight and we will happily show you how the service operates. We are already saving schools millions of pounds in recruitment advertising and with government support, such as is envisaged for the supply sector, we can channel probably another £50 million into teaching and learning while providing accurate and up to the minute management information for civil servants and ministers.

This is one area where you can say, job done, even before the election.

Teacher Training: Value for Money?

Tomorrow the National Audit Office (NAO) publishes a report into the training of new teachers. We know this because, yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster (PAC) that receives NAO Reports decided to hold an evidence session on the subject on the 7th March. Presumably, the Chair of the PAC had seen a draft of the Report and merited it of sufficient worth to hold an inquiry. As yet, we don’t know who will be called to give evidence, but we can assume the DfE will be there. Hopefully, by then, they will have a new Permanent Secretary.

We can also assume that value for money will feature largely in the NAO Report. I hope that the NAO Report looks at the centralised admissions process for postgraduate courses. This has many advantages, but as currently organised has costs, to UCAS, to course providers and to applicants that are higher than in the previous system.  UCAS can recover any additional costs, so the change from a consecutive to a concurrent system should have been cost neutral to their bottom line.

For applicants in popular subjects applying at the start of the process, they may need to attend three interviews with no guarantee of a place at any of them, but that was the situation under the previous system. For applicants in less popular subjects, unless they know that fact, they may make three applications when only one would be necessary to secure a place; but they have had more choice.

For providers, they no longer know whether applicants have their course as their first preference or even their highest remaining priority. This means potentially interviewing applicants that might turn down a place if offered one somewhere else. UCAS should be able to quantify how often this has happened to providers so an average cost could be determined.

Elsewhere in the Report, I assume the NAO will look into the value for money of the different routes into teaching. I assume that they will assess the relative spends on marketing and admissions and on course delivery. It will be interesting to see if the NAO has delved into how much universities charge as central overheads. This was an issue first raised in the early 1990s when the Teacher Training Agency was created, but providers were often left to battle it out at an institutional level with recharges of deficits by central administrations when they over-charged. The increase to £9,000 fees temporarily put the debate on the back burner. But, I suspect it is still a live issue.

Do larger provider make better use of public money or are small school-based courses nimbler and more efficient in their use of funds? Does the present system ensure a coherent supply of teachers each year of the right quality in the right place and with the right mix of expertise? And does the government know what happens to the new teacher after the State has funded their training up front?

After all, as I have pointed out before, we train more teachers each year than the total personnel in the Royal Navy, so this is not some hole in the corner business, but a large-scale organisation. We will wait for tomorrow to see what the NAO has to say for itself. Since I had a conversation with the officer responsible, I am especially interested in this Report.




Funding per pupil, spending by schools: does it give value for money

Many of the important operational financial decisions of schools are largely idiosyncratic.’ This was the finding of a DfE sponsored research project that reported in 2012. Earlier today David Laws as Minister of State issued a written ministerial statement on future funding for schools in 2014-15. In the end, whatever decisions are made about how to fund schools, the spending decisions are now taken at the school level. How idiosyncratic schools’ individual decisions are can be determined, at least in historical terms, by an analysis of the raw data the DfE now publishes on its web site

Recent data for academies allows comparisons between such schools expenditure patterns. The latest data is for the school-year 2010-11 since it seemingly takes longer for the private sector to produce accounts than for state owned schools, where data up to March 2012 has been in the public domain for some time now. It would be invidious to look at academies starting in 2010, since they would not have a full complement of pupils, and there are always extra start-up costs. However, taking four academies outside London with starting dates between 2003 and 2008 provides an interesting picture of expenditure over four different categories.


All academies with Key Stage 4: National median expenditure £3,544

The 4 academies  £2,047  £3,512  £3,700  £4594


All academies with Key Stage 4: National median expenditure £29

The 4 academies  £65  £72  £99  £123

Staff Development

All academies with Key Stage 4: National median expenditure £71

The 4 academies  £24  £53  £81  £92

Educational Supplies

All academies with Key Stage 4: National median expenditure £603

The 4 academies £602  £779  £880  £885

On every element there is a wide range of expenditure between the four academies. It is important that boards of directors of academies do these sorts of comparisons just as much as governing bodies of community schools so that they can justify the use of what is still in the final analysis public money.

The new funding arrangements for 2014-15 may be the last before a major reform that will grapple with the vexed question of regional funding levels, as well as those at the individual school level. The greater flexibility for the funding of small schools in rural areas highlighted in the ministerial statement will no doubt be welcomed by many in the shire counties and unitary authorities in rural areas, but the approach could mean the end of some small urban primary schools unless they have relatively low overheads and staffing costs towards the lower end of the range. There won’t be many TLRs in those schools, and the new pay arrangements might mean these were the first schools to face the staff with the choice of an increment or the closure of the school.

School funding arrangements will never please everyone, but it is clear that value for money benchmarks that governors and directors of schools can benchmark their own schools against might be a useful aid to constructing budgets and helping ministers decide the funding mechanisms for the future.