October 2018

The know zone

  • Data unbound
    ASCL's latest project is helping schools to extract deeper meaning from their data and do it in a much more timely fashion, says Duncan Baldwin. More
  • Focus on curriculum
    With so many schools having to find increasingly innovative ways of stretching their budgets, Julia Harnden says the key to their ability to manage their money well is by keeping the curriculum at the heart of their financial planning. More
  • Hand in hand
    Suzanne O'Farrell highlights some key pointers to ensure your curriculum and assessment are properly aligned. More
  • What lies beyond?
    Kevin Gilmartin explores the findings of a major House of Lords report on Treating Students Fairly that looks into the economics of post-school education. More
  • Dear newly qualified teacher...
    What is the one piece of advice you would give to encourage anyone about to embark on their first teaching role? Something to inspire and instil in them the same spark or passion of teaching that you share - here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Superheroes*
    It's time to make job adverts for headship more realistic, down-to-earth and honest - to ensure that the candidates are, too, says Carl Smith. More
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With so many schools having to find increasingly innovative ways of stretching their budgets, Julia Harnden says the key to their ability to manage their money well is by keeping the curriculum at the heart of their financial planning.

Focus on curriculum

The long anticipated national funding formula (NFF) for schools has been introduced in the budget year 2018/19. This is the first year of implementation and while most schools will have seen some change, the impact is limited by transitional protections. What this means is that both gains and losses have been capped.

During the implementation period local authorities (LAs) retain some flexibilities and some, but not all, have moved to closely mirror the NFF. It is sensible that some decisions are best made at local level, to reflect the needs of the children and young people in that area. We know now that local formula flexibility will continue until at least 2020/21. The big question is how well the education sector will be funded in the next comprehensive spending review (CSR), expected in 2019. At the moment, there is simply not enough funding to meet the needs of all pupils and ensure that all have access to what they need to succeed. ASCL, along with many other sector organisations, is working with the DfE to build evidence to support the case for more money in education.

Making best use of the money

Your curriculum will always be at the heart of the school’s strategic financial plan and the funding that you receive is what makes it happen. With so many schools having to find increasingly innovative ways of stretching their budgets to meet the needs of their pupils it can be helpful to take a step back and focus on a few key questions that will inform strategy discussions and build financial resilience:

  1. What does the curriculum that we must deliver look like?
  2. What does the curriculum that we want to deliver look like?
  3. What does the curriculum that we can afford look like?

Curriculum-led planning is an approach to strategic financial planning and you may have heard this referred to as integrated curriculum financial planning (ICFP). ICFP brings together curriculum and budget planning as a closely linked process and uses a common language to develop understanding across the leadership team, and the trust board or governing body. This is certainly not a new idea. ASCL has been advocating the value of strengthening the link between curriculum and financial planning for many years.

Practically speaking, ICFP is based on the relationship between a group of key metrics. These may include the cost of employing a teacher, the amount of time teachers spend teaching, how much of the budget is available to spend on teachers, the average size of a teaching group and the pupil– teacher ratio. Consideration of the interaction between these metrics and exploring where there may be flexibility, will inform the number of teachers the school can afford to employ and, therefore, the number of teaching sessions that the school has available to them to deliver the curriculum.

A word of caution

ICFP is not a dark art, nor is it a panacea for efficiency. It is a pretty straightforward way of aligning a school with available resources and making sure that, over time, as much budget as possible is directed into the classroom. The DfE is talking a lot about ICFP and recommending it as a tool to support effective resource management. I would agree with this, but I would go even further and say that this approach will indicate where organisations are already efficient. In those circumstances and in the context of real-terms budget reductions, we know that leaders are faced with making difficult choices about the curriculum offer.

The questions, metrics and considerations talked about here are relevant to all phases of education. The relationship between the metrics, and the range of values that a school or trust may choose to work within, will be different in a primary and secondary setting; they will also be different in schools with high and low levels of deprivation.

Done well, ICFP will take account of local context, deliver a curriculum that meets the needs of all groups of pupils and provide a sustainable foundation for growth.

Find out more

ASCL has developed an online resource for members, Linking Revenue to the Timetable, which underpins the principles of curriculum-led planning – download it here: www.ascl.org.uk/lrt

On 9 October 2018 we are hosting an ICFP Summit; for more details and to book your place see our website: www.ascl.org.uk/icfpconference

Julia Harnden
ASCL Funding Specialist