Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Targeted funding

piggy bank on a target

As the financial crisis intensifies, an ASCL fly on the wall of the seventh floor of the DCSF uncovers a possible explanation for the sudden abolition of Key Stage 3 tests.

Secretary of State
Sir Humphrey, a job for you. The chancellor wants us all to cut our budgets, so he can rescue the banks. Says he will repay it when the banks are solvent again or when pigs fly. Whichever is the sooner.

Sir Humphrey
Yes Minister. I'll get right on it.

Sir H
Secretary of State, may we have a word about the budget cuts.

SoS
Ah, yes. What have you come up with?

Sir H
Well, Minister, we thought that it might be better if we cut things that haven't happened yet. That will give the appearance to the Treasury of saving money but the education world won't notice. We have looked at all the 174 initiatives announced in the last nine months and many of them are not yet under way.

For example, Minister, there's the masters degree. It was in the Children's Plan, and the TDA is in the early stages of planning it, but 120 million does seem rather a lot just to give every teacher a degree. Most of them have got one already.

SoS
Sir Humphrey, it's really important that we have a masters level teaching profession. They have that in Finland, you know, and they have a very successful education system. Much more successful than ours - they keep telling me.

Sir H
Yes, Minister, we thought of that. We wondered if you might call in a few vice-chancellors and see if we could explore the honorary degree system. You know, Minister, you have one from the University of Borset. Honorary masters degrees would do a lot for the status of the teaching profession. And, Minister, there would be no complaints about additional workload.

SoS
Very good idea, Sir Humphrey. I think we should explore that.

Sir H
Then there's the computer home access scheme, Minister. 350 million seems an awful lot of money to spend on computers for people who have mobile phones, which already can be used to access the department's excellent website and the so-called 'online reports'.

SoS
Very sensible Sir H. But won't this attract some rather bad publicity? We've already been accused of reducing social mobility.

Sir H
That is a very good point, Minister. Therefore, could I suggest that, rather than outright abolition, this scheme might be transferred to the Home Office? They would then be responsible for funding it, of course.

SoS
Home access - Home Office. That sounds logical, Sir Humphrey. You didn't get a first in philosophy and logic for nothing. And the Home Office could do with a good news story. What else, Sir Humphrey?

Sir H
I recognise that the next idea could be a bit tricky, but there is a lot of money to be saved on examinations. They cost about 700 million a year, you know, Minister. The suggestion is that we could start in a small way with the Key Stage 3 exams.

SoS
You mean, abolish the Key Stage 3 exams? That would be a bold step. Do you think that people would notice, Sir Humphrey?

Sir H
We see the abolition of Key Stage 3 tests as combining boldness and decisiveness with the advantage that practically nobody would notice their absence. Just one day's headlines and that will be the end of the story.

SoS
But I thought that the Key Stage 3 tests were a cornerstone of our standards policy? Standards will fall if we don't have them.

Sir H
Actually, Minister, we have known for some time that they have no actual effect on standards, but it has been difficult to drop them quietly. With the banks in some financial difficulty and the journalists all camped out in the City...

SoS
...we could abolish them decisively, please the teachers, delight the children...

Sir H
...and save 30 million a year. Added to which, Minister, there are the rather clumsily named 'single level tests'. The pilot has not been a great success and could be ended not with a bang but a whimper, as TS Eliot might have said. Another 30 million saved by not implementing these tests across the whole country.

SoS
Magnificent, Sir Humphrey. You have certainly earned your bonus this year.

Sir H
Unlike my friends in the city, Minister, who have so kindly provided the impetus for your excellent response to the Chancellor's request.


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