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Budgets and exams top list of heads’ concerns

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by Chris Parr

Dwindling school budgets, boosting exam results and preparing for a visit from inspectors are the top three concerns for Britain’s embattled secondary headteachers, a survey of more than 2,000 school leaders has revealed. Fourth on the list of troubles,

compiled as part of the Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) 2010 membership survey, was whether or not to pursue acad- emy status – something that would not have entered many heads’ minds until the Academies Bill passed through Parliament in July. Managing a reduction in staff,

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strategic financial planning and changes to the curriculum com- pleted the top seven, with relative- ly few heads citing the demise of the Building Schools for the Future scheme, falling student rolls, or

Top 10 concerns for secondary headteachers (ranked by percentage)

• Managing a reducing budget: 19.8

• Improving exam results: 13.5

• Preparing for inspection: 12.9 • Considering academy status: 11.5

• Managing a reduction in staff: 10.3

• Strategic financial planning: 9.6

• Curriculum change: 8.8 • Capital projects / BSF: 5.5 • Falling student rolls: 4.4 • Removing the school from special measures: 1.3

Source: ASCL membership survey 2010

getting their school out of special measures as their top cause of concern. Brian Lightman, general sec-

retary of the ASCL, said tighter budgets would mean schools will have to make do with less, and “inevitably will have to face hard decisions about how to make their budgets stretch further”. “In many schools and colleges

this is likely to mean staff cuts which will inevitably lead to bigger classes,” he said. “Schools and colleges will also

need to consider reducing curricu- lum choice for students by cutting GCSE and A level subject options that have the least take up. The important message is that schools and colleges must start planning now so that they don’t end up in an even worse predicament in 12 months’ time.” The ASCL’s findings were

backed up this week by members of SecEd’s editorial board, with a number confirming that they are most concerned about the upcom- ing Spending Review, which will be published by the government on October 20.

INSIGHT Independent, confidential data for school improvement The Review will outline in more

detail how different government departments will be expected to make savings. Louise Duncan, headteacher at

Sunbury Manor School in Surrey, told us: “Top worry above all else is the review in October. I think we are being really softened up for a big shock, especially since the NHS (budget) is ring-fenced. “I am particularly concerned as

my year groups have between 30 and 40 per cent SEN students in them, needing a great many extra bodies for support. These would, of course, be the most vulnerable staff.” Simon Viccars, head at Leon

School and Sports College in Milton Keynes, added: “I think we are all wary of the October spend- ing review and its implications.” Elsewhere, the survey found

that the majority of secondary lead- ers support the government’s pro- posal to change the funding formula to incorporate a pupil premium. Some 64 per cent were in favour of the idea, 13 per cent disagreed, and 23 per cent were unsure. Mr Lightman continued: “Whatever formula is decided upon

to allocate a pupil premium, it needs to be fair, fit-for-purpose, and trans- parent but need not necessarily be simple. “It is better to have a complex

formula that gives the right answer than a simple one that leaves schools in an inequitable situation.

View from the top: Headteachers speak out

Louise Duncan, Sunbury Manor School, Surrey “Working just outside London in an authority regarded as affluent and attracting no additional funding means we are already as lean as lean can be on our spending. Housing is more expensive than in London, the percentage of our budget spent on staff is by necessity huge. It does not take Einstein to work out that for schools in this position the kind of savings we are talking about cannot be made by not photocopying or buying fewer envelopes. We are in a different world from schools who are talking about not providing a catered meal for their staff on INSET days as a way of reducing costs. We already haggle about whether we can afford a two or four-finger Kit Kat!”

Paul Scutt, Bishop Fox’s School, Somerset “Managing the likely budget reduction is by far and away the number one priority for us. The school has made significant progress in the last five years and we are very concerned to protect that improvement and deliver more of the same. Improvements in English and maths to deliver beyond D target is the second priority, though managing the effects of the new admission arrangements is a significant issue as well.”

Alex Wood, Wester Hailes Education Centre, Edinburgh “Managing a timetable is exceptionally difficult in a small school in a period of budget reductions and staff reductions. The concept of a comprehensive school which can offer a wide and comprehensive curriculum and proper choice to all students becomes an increasing challenge.”

Jacques Szemalikowski, Hampstead School, north London “Obviously managing a very difficult financial situation – while in the expectation of ‘more for less’ also improving outcomes – will be challenging. The pupil premium will help to target need, so long as it is not at the expense of core service delivery.”

• curriculum-based assessment • ability tests • attitudinal surveys • value-added indicators • grade predictions • national norms for end of KS3 UK news n SecEd: On Your Side n Independent thinking n Moral support n NQT diary n Managing ICT n At the chalkface

Issue 258 • September 16 2010 Price £1.00

“A political desire for simplicity

may work against the core princi- ples of fair funding that follows the learner and a baseline that is suffi- cient for purpose. Baseline funding must be enough that a school with no students on a premium can still carry out its core functions.”


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