2020 Spring Term 2

The know zone

  • Primary inspections
    The new Ofsted Inspection Framework has been in place since September and, so far, the emerging picture shows a somewhat mixed bag of inspection experiences in primary schools. Here, Tiffnie Harris shares her insights. More
  • Resource management
    Hayley Dunn provides a summary of a report on the Schools Resource Management Adviser (SRMA) pilot and says that while it provides useful pointers for schools, the report fails to recognise wider funding concerns. More
  • What's on offer?
    University offers have reached new levels of complexity. But is this complexity necessary or is it masking some rather opaque practices? Kevin Gilmartin explores what is really going on with university offer-making. More
  • Digital Detox
    ASCL's Online Editor Sally Jack shares some suggestions on how to manage your digital selves on social media and keep your mental health healthy. More
  • Should GCSEs be scrapped?
    Have GCSEs had their day? Should we have a lighter touch form of assessment at 16? Or do GCSEs represent an inviolable 'gold standard'? And is another upheaval of exams just too much trouble? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Non nobis solum
    Headteacher Catharine Darnton joined ASCL Council last September and is a member of the Funding Committee. More
  • Better left unsaid
    The relentless road to self-improvement is paved with potential unhappiness and frustration. Wouldn't it be even better if we simply settled for everyday excellence, asks Carl Smith. More
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Hayley Dunn provides a summary of a report on the Schools Resource Management Adviser (SRMA) pilot and says that while it provides useful pointers for schools, the report fails to recognise wider funding concerns.

Resource management

What does the report say?

In January, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) published a report evaluating its findings from the SRMA pilot. The report states that SRMAs visited 72 trusts and that they have reported opportunities for savings or income generation of about £35 million within those schools. The report recommended the following areas where those trusts visited by SMRAs could make savings:

  • £123,570 on energy costs
  • £133,729 on ICT learning resources 
  • £220,660 on learning resources (not ICT equipment) n £353,508 on catering n £658,653 on other staff-related costs n £1.7 million on back office costs (including staff costs) 
  • £1.9 million on other expenditure 
  • £2 million on supply staff 
  • £2.6 million on premises costs 
  • £2.8 million on education support staff 
  • £3.1 million of revenue generation opportunities
  • £19.6 million on the optimal deployment of teaching and leadership staff

What can schools do?

If we look past the numbers in the report, we can see ideas that may help school leaders. Unsurprisingly, given that the main proportion of a school’s budget goes towards spending on staff, most of the opportunities the SRMAs identified related to the optimal deployment of staff, including the deployment of teaching staff, education support staff and supply teaching costs.

The report claims that where trusts were reallocating these resources, they were able to increase spend on priority areas, such as teaching staff in those subject areas where they were most needed.A key part of the ESFA’s approach is integrated curriculum and financial planning (ICFP), which looks at curriculum planning, timetabling and how much that costs. We were pleased to see that within the report, the ESFA recognised that ASCL has been a leading association in the use of ICFP.

Governance arrangements were also highlighted in the report, with suggestions including carrying out a skills audit; increasing the number of times accounts are subject to scrutiny; governors undertaking training; and improving the way they prepare for, and conduct, their meetings to allow them to be more focused on areas that matter most.

What is ASCL’s view? 

While ASCL welcomes the findings in the report, we believe it is important that schools can make the final decision over what will or will not work in their context. Moreover, we are concerned that the government has attached strings to this advice by making it part of the criteria for applications for capital funding. The criteria says that schools that do not provide an ‘appropriate response’ to SRMA recommendations will have points deducted.

In our press release, issued at the time the ESFA’s report was published, General Secretary, Geoff Barton, said:“This flies in the face of the assurance that these decisions lie with schools and may make it more difficult for schools to access capital funding needed to keep buildings safe and in good working order.

”He went on to say, “[T]his programme cannot possibly solve the funding crisis in education. We need billions to do that, not millions. The government’s recent decision to allocate an additional £7.1 billion to schools over the next three years shows that it has belatedly recognised this fact. Unfortunately, even this additional funding will not reverse the cuts.”

The wider picture

While we acknowledge that the report and its findings are helpful for schools and recognise that it could help them to make some savings, we are concerned that the report fails to acknowledge the wider picture of the severe funding crisis that schools are currently facing. Our schools and colleges require funding that runs into the billions, so we will continue to lobby the government to provide our education system with the funding it so desperately needs and deserves.

Find out more 

Read the full ESFA report on the SMRA pilot at www.gov.uk/government/publications/ school-resource-managementadviser-srma-pilot-evaluationRead our full press release about the report at www.ascl.org.uk/CommentSRMAPilot

Your CPD

Book your place on our practical workshop on Implementing Integrated Curriculum and Financial Planning (ICFP) in Your School or MAT – find out more at www.ascl.org.uk/ImplementingICFP

Hayley Dunn
ASCL Business Leadership Specialist