Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

A promising future?

At ASCL's Annual Conference in March, in the run up to the general election, John Morgan reminded politicians that ASCL members will hold them to their campaign promises. This extract from his speech lays out the priorities, particularly for funding.

A first-class education service requires first-class funding. Improving our education system has been a priority for all the political parties, and Education UK is viewed with envy from beyond our shores. But one area where there is still work to do is in raising the aspirations of students, not just to achieve but to remain as learners for life.

We must not see the language of replacement descend to refurbishment then to refreshment - and for those at the end of the queue, tea and biscuits if they are lucky.

The early rounds of prioritisation for the waves of BSF were not based on a condition survey, so there are still plenty of secondary school buildings in grave need of replacing.

The leaders of those schools have looked on in envy at early BSF schools. As they wait their turn, they fear that all they will get is a wave goodbye to the dream of a new building.

This is also the time to remind our political masters most strongly that the state education service is for everyone. And to create additional opportunities for everyone means that the education of the most disadvantaged in our society must be especially well funded.

There are almost as many disadvantaged children in areas of relative advantage as in disadvantaged areas. But rarely does any extra funding ever get through to provide the additional support they need.

In the mid-1990s this association called for better funding for schools and colleges serving disadvantaged communities. The present government has put very substantial funds into numerous projects aimed at challenging schools, from Excellence in Cities to the National Challenge, but the funds have not always been well targeted.

ASCL has long campaigned for a national funding entitlement for young people, so that students in Hertfordshire, Herefordshire and Haringey are equitably funded. Post-16 funding in recent years has shown that, contrary to the cries of local authorities, a national formula can be made to work.

As the number of academies grows, so too does the case for a national formula. The best opportunity to introduce a fairer national funding formula was around 2003 but, rather than seizing the opportunity, the government tried to make too many separate changes at once without modelling what would happen at the level of the individual school.

At a time of tighter funding, it won't be as easy to move to a national funding entitlement and a pupil premium, but it remains just as important to do so. The phasing in period will have to be longer but if you never start on a journey, you will never reach your destination.

Efficiencies yes, we must all play our part but we call on government to preserve a real terms increase for the coming three-year spending round if schools and colleges and universities are to maintain all that is expected of them.

John Morgan

© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders