Fantasy Funding – Spending the Dream

The new Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, promised something new in his first Downing Street speech. He promised to ‘level up school funding’ and during his campaign talked of schools receiving at least £5,000 per year for every pupil, immediately doing away with every differential.

Wonderful news, as we got £3,604 per pupil in 2018.

Obviously we won’t spend this before we get it (or get official notice of when we will receive it) but for a school like ours we had better have a plan ready to spend such a huge amount. Because, if it turns out to be for real and as stated - £5,000 per pupil per year into school (not averaged across the country or county and to include DfE costs) – then we have to have a plan to spend an extra 37% of our current budget – a total of £647,000 extra EVERY year!

My Fantasy Funding Spending List looks like this:

Premises improvements

Carpets, curtains and cupboards; blinds, bookcases and borders; wall coverings, water fountains and Wi-Fi; tables, tiling and temporary building conversion; playgrounds, paintwork and PE equipment; ceilings, security and staff facilities.

In the recent parent survey a few contributions said that the school looked a bit of ‘a state’ and hadn’t changed in twenty years. New buildings and smart buildings do not improve academic standards but they do give a more pleasant experience for all school members.

Instead of the £10,000 we spend each year now we could increase this to £60,000, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Premises Team increase

And then we’d like to make it shine and keep it shiny, showing that is cleaner and healthier and better looked after. This won’t improve standards and is unlikely to improve attendance (at nearly 98% there is very little absence occurring because illness or accident at school causes children to be off and so very little difference will be made in this way), but it may improve pride and a feeling of well-being.

We could add an extra full-time, full year, cleaner to the team at a cost of £25,000, including some for materials, training, equipment and support, and make a second ‘Wow’ difference!

In-class teaching assistant increase

All the research says that having a teaching assistant in class does very little for pupil outcomes. What it does do is make people feel better, and allow classes and lessons to work differently. Jobs get done, messages get delivered, bags get found, displays get changed, readers are heard read, spellings get practised, attention can be given, supervision increases, opportunities to run interventions increase.

If we increased our TA numbers from 4.2 full-time equivalents to 16 fte, so that we had, like parents think we should have, one per class full time, we would need to spend about £207,000 extra, but make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Dedicated Special Needs support

The level of SEND in our school is much lower than national or local average, but it is an area in which it seems impossible to ever meet demand. We have unmet calls for meetings, assessments, advice and learning, pastoral and behaviour support. We already provide one to one and other direct support and intervention for these pupils from our budget, but we recognise that, as a group who probably shouldn’t be grouped together, they have outcomes lower than their year group peers both in attainment and progress scores.

We probably need better skills, more hours and increased management.

To double our SEND provision would cost £55,000 per year, making a ‘Wow’ difference!

Teacher release to improve planning and outcomes

Teachers at this school all get at least 10% release, known as PPA, each week. International comparisons with some of the highest achieving countries show that this may be totally inadequate. Some systems have it at nearer 50%.

Doubling PPA for every teacher, with a focus on planning even more effective lessons, would cost £45,000 if we used Higher Level Teaching Assistants as we do now. It might reduce teacher stress and workload, improve teaching and learning, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Management and leadership of above staffing increases

Having just taken on 18 new staff we should probably put in some, limited, management capacity to support and direct them. This could be done, perhaps, by increasing senior leadership time by two days per week, and appointing an HLTA post (from within the posts above) with responsibility for line-managing TAs.

Total cost: £20,000, with the difference actually being made by the people listed above, but accounted for by these post holders.

Staff training

We spend so little on continuing professional development that it rounds to 0% of the annual budget, and comes to something like £8 per pupil per year. (Schools never account for the staff time involved in daily mentoring or management activity, so it really is a false figure – it tends to reflect course and consultant fees only, and not attending weekly professional development meetings).

But we should be developing staff better, making the most of their talents, interests and abilities, and gaining sustainability for the school.

If we gave every member of this newly expanded staff two days of training each year, it would only cost £20,000 in releasing a trainer and a trainee.

Curriculum support (including specialist teaching)

We do have areas of the vast Primary curriculum that we struggle to deliver well, and could really do with training (see above) or support with areas such as a Modern Foreign Language. PE and school sport has benefited from dedicated funding for three years, now at nearly £18,000 per year. Computing, MFL, Science and Music might all benefit from similar input, through staffing, training and resources. We could probably increase the quality of teaching and learning though such work. £36,000 should do it, and make a ‘Wow’ difference!

Reducing the costs to parents via voluntary contributions

Like most schools, we have effectively passed the costs of many school activities to parents, either through charging, fund-raising or voluntary contribution collection. Using increased school funding to meet these costs would have absolutely no direct impact on pupils. Parents would be less annoyed by being asked for so much, perhaps, and a little bit better off so they might be able to afford more at home.

What could we afford to do? The Edale Residential for Year 6 pupils (deposit of 20% just paid by school for 2020 even though we haven’t advertised it to parents yet and so have received absolutely no compensating income) costs £20,000. If we put that much into each year group (massively more than we actually ask for, for Year 3 to 5) it would cost £80,000.

Adding up all the above, and subtracting from the Fantasy Funding increase, we are left with:

£647,000 – £50,000 – £25,000 – £207,000 – £55,000 – £45,000 – £20,000 – £20,000 – £36,000 – £80,000 = £109,000!

We would be left with £109,000 every year!

Fun as that that bit of Fantasy Finding spending was, I really will be waiting to see it in black and white from DfE before actually consulting on how to spend any windfall or permanent increase in funding. I also wonder how it can be achieved for the estimated £50 million a year, as there are 22 Primary schools within 3 miles of this school that are funded below £5,000 per pupil per year. The lowest funded six will need to gain £2.98 million between them. In Sheffield 3 out of 4 Primary Schools are funded below £5,000 per pupil. There are more than 14,000 Primary Schools in the country. My knowledge is incomplete but I estimate it might cost £350 million per year.

Dare to dream, but don’t hold your breath - I assume someone will do the maths and realise the problem with what has been said. I suspect 'clarification' will follow sooner than the money does.

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