Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Calculating funding losses

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The last meeting of ASCL's Council, on 3-4 December, covered a broad sweep of issues but not surprisingly funding was a recurring theme throughout.

Unnecessary requirements

Plenary debate

ASCL had been asked by politicians and civil servants what 'requirements' that currently impact on schools and colleges we would wish to see removed. Council representatives had plenty of ideas which they put forward in the first plenary debate.

It was agreed that implementation of policies and initiatives has become over bureaucratic and addressing this would make a drastic improvement. Specifically, the compliance clause and complaints procedure in the latest education act should be repealed.

The quality and diversity schemes were given as examples of initiatives that have little impact on education but require lengthy reports. The school profile has little value and could be removed. Section B of the Ofsted inspection framework was a further example of something to be done away with.

Streamlining policies and giving access to a bank of generic policies would save time.

It was felt that the government in recent years has moved away from intelligent accountability and this has created more work for school leaders. The pendulum needs to swing in the other direction. However, while members want less regulation and more autonomy, ASCL should stress that autonomy for one institution should not be at the expense of other institutions.

Preventing racism

Plenary debate

Council also debated ASCL's response to the government's review of the provision to prevent the promotion of racism in schools - and specifically whether teachers should be allowed to belong to the British National Party (BNP). The review arose from a petition from one of the teaching unions to ban BNP members from working in schools.

Council members were unanimous in stating that racism, direct or indirect, has no place in schools and colleges. However, it was also agreed that a ban on the BNP was not an effective tactic for ensuring that racism was eliminated.

As well as practical issues of knowing individuals' party affiliations, it was felt that racism is a more subtle problem that cannot be addressed by hard line tactics. There were also concerns about the place of job censorship in a democratic society.

It was stated that schools and colleges already have procedures and policies in place to deal with staff who act in a racist manner and to weed out individuals who do not support schools' efforts at community cohesion. The vast majority of staff across the country, teaching and non-teaching, promote values based on respect and tolerance.

Finally it was felt that a ban on any one political party would only result in additional national publicity and a platform to promote its policies.

It was agreed that ASCL's response would reiterate its support of the provision as it currently stands.

Funding policy

Funding Committee

After much discussion the committee approved a revised ASCL funding policy for England. A revised policy for Wales is also on the agenda.

The policy reiterates ASCL's support for a national funding formula as the fairest distribution mechanism. The key principle is that the funding formula should not produce differences between similar students in similar institutions. ASCL will support all moves to simplify the current complex formula to make it more transparent.

In schools and colleges, funding for students 16-19 should not depend on the type of institution but on the cost of delivering the appropriate curriculum for each student. This should also apply to the diplomas for 14-19 year-olds.

A discussion on post-16 funding resulted in support for the current activity-led formula. While it might need some adjustment, in principle it should be retained. There was support for the idea of all 16-18 provision being funded through the same route. It seems to be not widely recognised that many FE colleges have significant numbers of 16-19 students.

It was felt that post-16 funding should be as general and flexible as possible. There is a need to fund entitlement in a manner that allows the institution to manage funding so it follows the learner.

Foundation learning

Education Committee

The committee invited Mal McHugh, Senior Manager for Foundation Learning at QCDA to attend to discuss foundation learning.

Mal confirmed that foundation learning spans pre- and post-16 and that students receive transcripts of the credits they have achieved. Credits can be accumulated onto the student's CV, even if there are gaps between credits.

It was acknowledged that work needs to be done locally and nationally with employers to improve understanding of these qualifications. FE colleges are already involved as this is a growth area.

Committee members agreed that a cultural shift is needed for parents and the general public to accept this as a valid qualification. Some concern was expressed at how this qualification sits alongside GCSE grades and therefore league tables. The point was made that a school's contextual value added score is better if students are taking a wide variety of qualifications.

It was felt that ASCL can do more to inform members about foundation learning through Leader and case studies from the pilot.

Pensions

Pay and Conditions Committee

Given the current pressures on public service pensions, the committee responded to a discussion paper about the future of teacher and support staff pensions.

It was recognised that the public sector final salary scheme is now unusual, due to its cost, and that the cost pressure on the Teachers Pensions Scheme is significant. However, it was also emphasised that pension is a significant part of the overall pay package and compensates in part for lower salaries in the public services as compared to the private sector.

The committee agreed it would support a move to a lifetime average salary scheme, provided that the overall pension pot remains unchanged. However further modelling of the implications of this is required, for both the Teachers Pension Scheme and support staff schemes.

It was also agreed that there should be a cap on the level of benefits, though contribution rates may also have to be adjusted. If there should be an increase in contributions, these should be met in the current proportions.(14.1/6.4) and any increased contributions will need full funding for the employer.

Finally, it was felt that the association needs to do more to raise awareness among political parties and the public that pension is an important part of teachers' and staff's overall remuneration package.

CVA measures

Professional Committee

The committee discussed papers relating to Key Stage 2-4 CVA including English and maths (CVA-EM) and post-16 CVA.

It appears that average CVA levels have risen in part because of the grade increases in qualifications with GCSE equivalence. Although it was agreed that there are issues with the equivalences, the committee on balance felt that the benefits to pupils of implementing appropriate curricular arrangements should be paramount and that greater curriculum flexibility outweighs the disadvantages in CVA-EM.

Regarding post-16 CVA, members noted that extensive core general studies programmes tended to reduce CVA scores. Institutions may therefore be under pressure to remove educationally beneficial programmes in order to increase their CVA score.

It was noted that students achieving a grade E will always give a negative value-added score which gives schools/colleges a perverse incentive to prohibit students achieving D/E grades at AS from proceeding to A2. There may also be reluctance to recruit borderline A level students at all, with a concomitant increase in NEET statistics.

Learner Achievement Tracker may provide a more useful tool for assessing school and college effectiveness and ASCL will promote this measure as preferable to post-16 CVA.

Political battleground

Professional Committee

The committee discussed the policies of the three main political parties as set against the issues in the ASCL Manifesto. It was agreed that post-16 funding will need a specific focus and that ASCL should use its influence to achieve clarity in this area.

ASCL should consider producing a position statement regarding a minimum entitlement to a national curriculum. It would also be useful to seek out more evidence of whether new models of educational delivery are improving standards.

Finally, the committee felt that ASCL should continue to challenge Ofsted's focus on the single central record and safeguarding judgements.

  • The next meeting of Council is 4-5 February in Warwick.

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