July 2015

The know zone

  • Sixth sense
    As timetables are tweaked in readiness for the new sixth-form provision in September, schools and colleges should ensure that their 16-19 study programmes will meet tight new financial and curriculum standards, says Kevin Gilmartin. More
  • Know your numbers
    Pay progression data can reveal hidden – possibly discriminatory – trends, so it is vital to study it carefully, says Sara Ford. More
  • Making allowances?
    Pay rises could push you over the tax relief limit and into trouble with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) so check your position, warns Stephen Casey. More
  • Experience counts
    Devising your school or college’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme can seem a daunting prospect. Do you plan for your own staff to deliver, invite a facilitator in to do the work or send staff out on external courses? What are the pros and cons of each approach and which provides the best value for money? More
  • A tidal change
    The Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation (RMNEF) is a British educational charity that officers support for the natural or adopted children of Merchant Navy seafarers and professional sea-going fishers, and of crew members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI’s) lifeboats. More
  • Extra daylight, extra opportunist thefts
    The warm summer evenings mean that everyone can look forward to spending more time outdoors. More
  • Question time
    What is the one big issue that you would like Secretary of State Nicky Morgan to tackle in this Parliament and why? What is the one burning issue that is affecting you and your school or college? 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
  • Reflected glory?
    The head is an ambassador for the school. However, there are – to put it mildly – some dangers in over-identification between the needs of the school and its leader’s desires, according to Chris Pyle. More
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What is the one big issue that you would like Secretary of State Nicky Morgan to tackle in this Parliament and why? What is the one burning issue that is affecting you and your school or college? Here, ASCL members share their views…

Question time

Focus on the quality of teaching

The government policy of extending academies and free schools seems to be predicated on the presumption that system changes can raise performance, whereas all the research evidence suggests that the key driver for change is through improving the quality of teaching in the classroom by developing focused CPD strategies and by extending the use of evidence-based research by teachers in schools. The impact of the creation of multi-academy trusts and academy chains has been to shift the focus of leaders away from the classroom and the individual school and its context.

How can the government, over the next five years, ensure that school leaders focus on the impact they can have in their own schools rather than coping with structural and system change?

Peter Tomkins
Vice Principal,
Montsaye Academy in Northamptonshire

Tackle the desperate funding situation

The big issue that I would like the Secretary of State to tackle is school funding. The extra funding that was generated for low-funded local authorities (LAs) in the last Parliament was very welcome as was the commitment that has been made to a National Fair Funding Formula.

However, I would like to state how desperately grim the financial projections are for schools in my area. If national insurance (NI) increases, employer pension contributions increase and inflationary pressures are not fully funded, there will be a financial meltdown in many schools within the next year.

I have been a headteacher for ten years and I have only been forced to set a deficit budget twice, and that has been in the last two years. Our financial controls are good; we have our teaching staff costs below 60 per cent of the budget and overall staffing costs are a little above 80 per cent of the budget. Both of these figures are widely regarded as good benchmarks in schools.

The curriculum model is lean but the next stage of savings will involve potentially cutting some subjects from the curriculum. Our increased labour costs, mainly because of NI and pension changes or another unfunded 1 per cent pay rise for teachers will increase our labour costs by £288,000 per year (3.2 per cent of the budget).

The cuts in sixth-form funding over the last three years have been catastrophic and we have also seen a real terms decrease in special educational needs (SEN) funding. These are national issues and not related to local formulae or money ‘sticking to the sides’ in the LA. Being an academy or a maintained school makes no material difference to this financial position. Our reserves will run out in August 2016. 

Carl Sugden
King James’s School in North Yorkshire

Address the dire teacher shortage issue

I do not believe the dire situation with regard to teacher shortage has been fully recognised. All the structural reform in the world will make no difference unless we have effective teachers in front of classes. The laudable ambition to run a ‘world-class’ education system (who could possibly argue against it?) will founder first and foremost on the inability of schools to recruit teachers. Surely, the first and most important responsibilities of the leaders of our state education system are to secure (a) school places where they are needed, (b) a supply of teachers to deliver the ambitious agenda we all share and (c) the funds to make it all work. Does the Secretary of State see things this way?

 Name and address supplied

Ensure there is adequate maintenance funding

I would like the Secretary of State to tackle the lack of maintenance funding for schools that has been in place since the coalition government came to power and that looks likely to be continuing.

Schools are complicated estates with buildings of a variety of ages and conditions but the common denominator is that they need to be maintained or else they quickly fall into disrepair. Students should expect the best from school staff but why should students, parents and staff expect anything less than buildings built and maintained properly.

Homework for the Secretary of State: look at the reports into the state of the Palace of Westminster and how much it will cost to bring that up to standard. Failure to maintain will cost dearly in the long run! 

Bob Moorhouse
Bursar & Clerk to the Governors,
Wymondham College Academy Trust in Norfolk