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EDUCATION EXECUTIVE supporting business and financial excellence in schools and colleges


ALL TOGETHER NOW The ‘Devon Eleven’ explains why primary schools should federate or risk failure

BUYER BEWARE? Academies as contracting authorities


CLUSTER BOMB The danger of managing too many schools

EdExec partners

editor’s letter



Education Executive is the first business management magazine written exclusively for school business managers and bursars, bringing you the latest issues affecting your role, from finance to premises, procurement to HR. EdExec delivers the lowdown on all the hottest topics in education management right here, every month.

EDITOR julia dennison REPORTER jonathan hills PUBLISHER vicki baloch SENIOR SALES EXECUTIVE neil pauksztello SALES EXECUTIVE jonathan love DIGITAL MANAGER dan price DESIGNER sarah chivers PRODUCTION AND CIRCULATIONS natalia johnston

Federate first, convert later


rimary schools listen up: if you don’t work together, you may not have a future. Yes, even you, large inner-city players. At least this is the opinion of Paul Jones, executive principal of the First Federation. You might think he would say that, the man’s the head of a federation after all, but he also has an OBE for his services in education, so he knows what he’s talking about – and, I might add, he’s in a federation for a reason. According to this man in Devon, primary schools do better when they collaborate on a wheel-and-spokestyle leadership. Essentially, for the First Federation, success lies with having an executive principal and federation business manager working independently of any school and overseeing a fleet of heads of teaching and learning and school administrators. Through this model, the heads of teaching and learning can get on with what they do best, the school administrators can look after the day-to-day running of the school, and the bigger, budgetary and curriculum decisions happen at the top (read all about it on page 16). This model has proved so popular, the DfE is using what they call the ‘Devon Eleven’ – or the academy trust that the First Federation forms a part of – to lead by example, touring the country, educating schools on the federation model. The fact the First Federation is a group of five schools that forms part of an 11-school academy trust is important. For Paul, it’s important that a school forms a federation to change the culture of working, and a larger academy for the sake of better business. Essentially, there is still merit in teaming up with a group of schools within a larger academy trust. It’s hard not to see why this is a good idea – it takes the pressure off individual schools, and also stops them from trying to reinvent the wheel, while also providing a strength-in-numbers buying power that results in good procurement deals. While more primary schools will inevitably convert to academies in the coming months, it’s important they think carefully about how they do it, and if you think like Paul, you’ll be looking for others to convert with you. Here’s wishing you a very happy 2012!

Education Executive is published by intelligent media solutions suite 223, business design centre 52 upper street, london, N1 0QH tel 020 7288 6833 fax 020 7288 6834 email web Follow Education Executive on Twitter at Printed in the UK by Buxton Press


Contents 10



make your school’s budget go further

32 interview

Converted to the cause John Kyrle High School finds financial freedom in academy status

36 ict

Lease on life The pros and cons of leasing capital equipment

40 academies

Buyer beware Academies as contracting authorities



the lowdown on the business management world

tune up your management skills

06 Sector news

42 recruitment

The latest news in the school business management world

08 event review


Learning by association A round-up of November’s NASBM conference

10 interview

A view from the Bramble Lisa Barratt is a school business manager with ambitions

what’s happening at a primary or secondary school near you

16 Interview

A number game The ‘Devon Eleven’ on why primaries should join or die (well, close down)

24 feature

Independent school news and views

30 legal

The latest updates and developments in school technology A saintly task All Saints Junior School in Reading is a free school with IT at its core

50 event preview

BETT Guide 2012 The definitive guide to everything SBMs and ICT managers need to know from the January 11-14 technology show

62 Help Desk

Cluster bomb The danger of managing too many schools

28 independent update

46 ICT news

Primary school news and views

Secondary school news and views

ICT matters 48 Case study

14 PRIMARY update

22 SECONDARY update

Break time Put your feet up and take your break right here

the latest technological innovations in schools today

schools in focus

Foreign language What you need to know when recruiting staff from other countries

Hedging your BETT An insider’s perspective to the big show

Free to be free? The legalities behind free schools setting their own agenda

Look out for news, products and competitions from our sponsors

sector Sector news is brought to you by Free banking for schools supported by local specialist relationship managers Lloyds TSB Commercial - well educated banking


Photo: Liberal Democrats on Flickr


The pupil premium will increase by £112 to £600 and over half a million additional children will qualify for the premium as the government extends its reach to cover any child that has been registered for free school meals (FSM) in the past six years. This will address the fact that according to studies, children who have been eligible for free school meals at any point in their school career have consistently lower educational attainment than those who have never been eligible. Pupils at secondary school are also less likely to be registered for free school meals even when they are eligible and so the Department for Education feels they are more likely to be picked up by this approach. Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said increasing the per pupil level of the pupil premium for 2012-13, as well as extending the eligibility to reach more children would “help schools tackle the inequalities that have been a part of our state system for far too long”. From April 2012, the government will also provide a £250 per pupil premium to schools with service children – up from £200 this year. From September 2012, the DfE will require schools to publish online information about how they have used the premium. Data shows that between three to five per cent of school children could be missing out on the extra cash – between around 200,000 to 350,000 children in England. It also suggests that families in the East Midlands, South East and east of England may be less likely to register their children for FSM, even when they are entitled to them. The DfE put a call out to schools and parents across England to make sure those children eligible for free school meals are registered as soon as possible so that schools receive the full funding they are entitled to. Schools should work with parents to confirm any eligibility in time for the school census on 19 January.

STORY OF THE MONTH COASTING SCHOOLS HAVE SIX YEARS TO IMPROVE Schools that fail to improve from a ‘satisfactory’ Ofsted rating after six or more years should be relabelled as ‘inconsistent’ and pushed hard to improve, a report by The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and Ofsted recommends. The study shows that half of the 40% of English schools currently labelled as ‘satisfactory’ did not improve after two Ofsted inspections and eight per cent actually declined to an inadequate rating within the same time. Ofsted stated last month that there were currently around 800 coasting schools in England, with the RSA report indicating that a majority of them are found in poorer and more deprived areas. More than half of all comprehensives in 17 English local authorities are already rated as ‘inadequate’, including Blackpool, Bradford, Hull, North East Lincolnshire and Peterborough. The report referred to such schools as being effectively “stuck” without improvement and that children in satisfactory secondary schools have a 58% chance of their school remaining satisfactory or worsening by the time they leave. A spokesman for the Department for Education said that “there are still far too many underperforming schools” in England. They added: “We will not let mediocre performance continue unchecked and we are clear that there will be no hiding place for schools that are not making the progress they should. “We’re bringing in a tough new inspection regime from January targeted at the weakest performing schools and overhauling league tables.” The report by Ofsted found that many of the government’s flagship academies were counted among those who were providing “lower quality educational provision”.

They said... The bit of work that we did which is law was a good bit of work for any government. So to erode it, which is essentially what Mr Gove is doing, his view is we let schools do what they want Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver voices his concern on BBC Breakfast that academy schools, which do not have to abide by government food regulations, will lapse back into serving unhealthy school meals Photo: bbcbreakfast on Flickr

january 2012


sector NEWS



As part of Rocket Gardens’ ‘Dig for the Future’ project, which encourages schools to get children growing organic vegetables and learning about the food they eat, Sodexo is providing schools in communities where it operates with seasonal fruit, vegetable and salad gardens



The government has pledged to address the many disparities and inequalities that exist within the current school funding system following its recent consultation on funding reform. This is likely to come in the shape of a funding formula. At a School Funding Reform Conference in November, run by Capita Conference, the joint head of the Department for Education’s funding policy unit, Dugald Sandeman spoke of the government’s response to the two-stage consultation on school funding and how the system would progress towards a fairer funding system, as he said the current model “frankly, isn’t working”. He spoke of a “tension between simplicity and fairness” and a “strong case for a degree of local flexibility” when it came to creating a funding formula. Sandeman also admitted that the current model was also not very well suited for academy conversion. “Irrespective of the distributive effects of the [current funding] system, it is very badly oriented to moving into academy budgets,” he told delegates in London’s Pimlico. According to the recent consultation on funding reform, which received 800 responses, 56% of respondents preferred a ‘school level’ based formula. Sandeman admitted that while there is strong support for a funding formula, there would be some issues to sort out first, including how academy budgetary decisions are made, so that in the end,“there will be winners and losers”.


of English councils are cutting or considering cutting funding for school transport services

11-14 January BETT Show 2012 Olympia, London


31 January Academies Manchester

has already been cut from local authority funding for supported bus services, representing a 13% drop in total spending on supported bus services from the previous year (Source: Campaign for Better Transport)

15-17 March Education Show NEC Birmingham 9-5 MAY Building Future Education (BFE) UK Business Design Centre, London | 0800 681 6078

/ january 2012



sector event review

Learning by T association A round-up of the NASBM Conference 2011 – what was said, what happened and what was concluded

Clockwise from top left: NASBM’s Bill Simmonds; the DfE’s Dugald Sandeman and singing waiters from Encore Entertainment

january 2012


he National Association of School Business Managers (NASBM)’s National Conference 2011 took place at Leicestershire’s Hinckley Island Hotel on 23-24 November to a crowd of school leaders, eager to find their way to a secure future in the management of education. The event took the theme ‘Effectively Managing Change’ and got going, after an opening performance from the Rugby High School for Girls’ orchestra, with a speech by the general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, Russell Hobby. As school business managers take on an even more essential leadership role as schools change over to academies, the crowd, understandably, was keen to see the NAHT’s name changed to accommodate SBMs as the fastest growing member group. Hobby’s diplomatic reply was that alongside support for the profession, he hoped the organisation would become better known by its acronym, in a similar way to BA or BP. After a talk from Angela Hands, director of the National Audit Office on accountability in education, the Department for Education’s deputy commercial director, Alyson Gerner took to the stage with advice on how schools could save money. She urged schools to take caution when signing up to photocopier leasing deals (for more on this, see page 36). Academy conversion was a hot topic at the conference, with one business manager from Sutton admitting that the £25,000 from the DfE was not nearly enough to cover the costs of converting – managing just to cover the cost of a new software license. It is no wonder, she admitted, she was not yet feeling the benefit of transformation. School business managers, such as Carole Petty of Carshalton High School for Girls, spoke of cutbacks in services at the local authority. “You want to support your local authority but with the cutbacks, they can’t deliver on the things they used to,” she said. “Councils are starting to cluster, but I’m not seeing an increase in staff, just a watering down of their service.” She’s been happy to buy into council services including insurance, sick-pay, and a management information system, but feels that on some services, the LAs have not moved quickly enough to respond to the competitive market. The lectures, seminars and workshops that followed addressed changes that arise with the academy movement as speakers aimed to educate school business managers on how to deal with new strategic, legal and financial procedures following conversion. In her presentation dubbed ‘Strategic HR’, Naseem Nabi spoke about safeguarding schools from the legal repercussions of enacting redundancies, advising school leaders how to avoid getting into legal complications that can arise when changing or moving their staff. Outlining the correct procedure and precautions to take, Nabi flagged up legal pitfalls that can arise and the simple means of avoiding them. Lisa Forster presented ‘Financial Reporting for Academies’ and informed school leaders about the process of financial accountability following their school’s autonomy from the local authority, while Jon Rayment spoke about how reviewing your catering service can save your school money and increase performance and health of students. One of the more interesting speakers was Dugald Sandeman, who, as joint head of the funding policy unit at the DfE, managed to shed some light on the progress of the academy movement from the inside-out and provide a glimpse into future of education funding. Sandeman also spoke about the topical issue of the per-pupil funding, stating that “funding per-pupil must be equal” in the future – a speech no doubt based around the published public accounts committee report just one week before. Nothing approached anything near a promise or a forecast however, though the sentiment of his presentation was clear, that despite the pot of cash used to incentivise schools diminishing by the day, the government will continue to push for conversion over the next few years until “a vast majority” of schools have achieved academy status. A decision that one questioning member of the audience referred to as “Hobson’s choice” to convert. The gala dinner included a charity auction for Help for Heroes that managed to raise £8,200 for the charity along with a £4,000 donation by Lloyds TSB commercial.

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sector interview

Champion of the cause Lisa Barratt, of Kettering’s Brambleside Community Primary School, has had an ambitious career path, achieving the CSBM while a school administrative assistant and the DSBM as an administrator. Now a business manager, she has worked hard to campaign for the profession’s rights. Julia Dennison visits her school

january 2012


sector interview


t a time when many primary schools are just getting to grips with the importance of having a school business manager, Lisa Barratt is making a very good example. After an initial start in banking, her career has resided in the administration of schools for the last nine years – and it has been an ambitious start. This business manager does nothing in halves. She received the certificate of school business management (CSBM) when she was still an administrative assistant at a small village primary school, and went for the diploma of school business management (DSBM) as a school administrator at Brambleside Community Primary School in Kettering, where she works today. When three years ago she was promoted to business manager, she didn’t see it as an end point – instead pursuing her BA in school business management from Manchester Metropolitan University and receiving a stellar 2:1 for her efforts. Anyone who questions the need for business managers at primary school level would be quickly quieted if allowed a glimpse at her busy schedule.

Continued professional development Barratt has been lucky to have the support of encouraging headteachers throughout her career in education. It was the head of the village primary where she first worked who, back in 2005, first encouraged her to study the CSBM. (Her current headteacher is equally supportive and was the one to encourage her to be interviewed by this magazine). “I’m lucky, I’ve worked for three different headteachers and they’ve all been very, very supportive of my role,” she comments. Taking the first step to pursue the CSBM wasn’t easy as an administrative assistant, since she didn’t then have the direct access to school finances and HR records that she needed for the course. Luckily, she had a good friend studying at the same time who was a bursar at another local primary school and who was able to share her data with her. While it’s quite ambitious and unusual to pursue the CSBM as an administrative assistant, Barratt felt it was important for her career that she did it then, opening up opportunities for promotion earlier. However, she’s quick to explain that at the time, she didn’t know she wanted to be a business manager – taking the course was more a way for her to get a better idea of how schools are run. Even taking it at all was forward-thinking, for at the time, less than a decade ago, school business management was not as established a profession as it is today. “When I did the CSBM, we were cohort four – so we were very early on – and I hadn’t really seen any school business manager positions [advertised],” she remembers. “It was only during that programme that I started to see a few advertisements that made me think: ‘Wow, this is going to be a profession.’ Over that significant nine-year period, I’ve watched it grow and grow to a real profession that people are interested in and are coming into from outside of education, even.” After receiving the CSBM, she applied for the DSBM while still working at her previous school. She saw the school administrator position advertised at Brambleside, went for it and got it at the same time as being accepted on the DSBM, soon undertaking both at the same time. She still didn’t have direct access to school finances and records, but the then bursar was very accommodating. “That was the first time I really had good looks at a school’s finance system,” remembers Barratt. When the bursar at Brambleside retired, the school restructured the management team to create the role of school business manager. Barratt had completed the DSBM by then and applied for the job, which she landed in October 2008. It was while in this role that she also achieved the BA, which was more focused on management

fact box SCHOOL Brambleside Community Primary School Age range 4-11 Pupils 312 Support staff 32 Teaching staff 13 Annual budget £1m Local authority Northamptonshire School business manager Lisa Barratt Background Lisa Barratt started her working life in banking. She moved into education as an administrative assistant at a small village primary school. After gaining the CSBM, she went to work at Brambleside Community Primary School as a school administrator and was promoted to business manager after receiving her DSBM. She recently achieved a 2:1 on her BA and now sits on the school’s senior leadership team. Time in role Three years

theory than the practical CSBM and DSBM. “The degree gave me skills to take away; you could apply them in every situation,” she comments. “Where the CSBM and DSBM tend to focus a lot on finances and HR – things that were really relevant to your role, the degree just took it one step further to make you think a little bit outside of the box.” The networking opportunities the programmes presented have been equally useful, providing her with people she can call on if she’s ever wondering how someone else might do something. The variety of backgrounds of the students on the programmes was also extensive – from a vice principal of a 2,000-plus pupil secondary school, to a bursar at a 50-pupil primary school. “I was lucky then to be supported by really good people who were saying: ‘You can do this,’” she says of her mentors along the way. This has left her eager to return the favour, and as a result, has encouraged her own admin assistant to go for a certificate in administration.

/ january 2012



sector interview

We fought to get school business managers in primary schools recognised

Strength in numbers

Extending services

Pursuing business manager qualifications has made Barratt recognise the importance of the profession as a whole. This has encouraged her to seek out other SBMs in the shape of networks and support groups. She attends the local school business management cluster meetings and belongs to the Northamptonshire School Business Managers Forum. As part of these groups, she has been working to champion the SBM role – particularly in primary schools. For example, Northamptonshire recently went through an assimilated pay structure, but it didn’t recognise the role of primary school business manager in its pay scales. “This was quite annoying because that was the role I carried out – it was my job title and the job title of many others in primary schools in Northamptonshire,” remembers Barratt. She appealed against the decision, along with a lot of SBMs in her situation, which required her to fill in a job-analysis questionnaire. “We fought to get school business managers in primary schools recognised,” she comments. “I went to appeal with my headteacher, who was my advocate.” The appeal was successful and now there is a grade for a primary school business manager in Northamptonshire – thanks to Barratt and her colleagues. “You’re seeing school business managers in primary schools more and more,” Barratt comments.

A consultation is in place for Brambleside Primary to increase its pupil numbers from a 45 planned admission number to 60 from September, gradually increasing school pupil numbers from 312 to 420. Due in part to a high birth rate in the area, the increase will be easier to manage than the current model as it allows for single year group classes instead of vertically grouped classes. To accommodate this, the school is planning an extension, on which Barratt is starting work with the help of the local authority and a team of architects. The development will be mostly funded by the LA, but the school will make a contribution from its devolved formula capital – “but of course, with the state of the economy at the moment, we’re not quite sure what that’s going to be next year, so we’re having to work off our figures for this year,” she comments. ICT, in particular, is important to the school – and is something used in every lesson. The school received a grant from a local councillor through the Empowering Councillor Fund, which it used for IT in the hall, including a projector, laptop cables, and built-in speakers. Planning for the extension is at the point where the school is starting to consult the local community – through leaflets, a plans evening and putting together a travel plan. “I’ve sent out brochures to the parents, local community and staff, and I have to take all the information I receive, collate it and put together an action plan,” says Barratt. The reaction has been positive so far. “Our location means that people won’t be affected in terms of the build because we’re at quite a distance from any houses,” she continues. “It’s more things like parking – because it’s an extra 15 families next year and an extra 30 next. We are doing our upmost to make the extension work for the school, the children, the staff and the local community.” With all the help it receives from the local authority, the hot topic of academy conversion is not yet something on the cards for Brambleside. In the meantime, this is one primary school and business manager that are considering the future with school improvement and the children as a priority.

Funding formula At 14 years old, fate has been kind to Brambleside Community Primary School. Budgets are in good shape, the building still feels new and the local authority has been a welcome support. The school maintains a good relationship with parents, most of whom reside in the surrounding neighbourhood, the affluence of which is made clear in its detached houses and garden gates. However, when it comes to school funding, financial stability in the parents doesn’t always translate to financial stability in the school. “We’re in what Ofsted describes as ‘an affluent area’ and because of that we miss out on things like deprivation funding, free school meals, and disadvantaged subsidy funding,” explains Barratt. “But just because our children aren’t needy in respect to financial needs, they may have other needs, so it’s hard.” The school has struggled in the past to get parents registered to free school meals for reasons including stigma and simply being unaware of eligibility. In September, with new government policy requiring all schools to serve hot meals in effect, Brambleside installed an external catering ‘pod’ to serve the children their lunch, mostly paid for by the local authority, apart from £24,000 from the school’s own budget. “The school was built at a point when hot meals were not even considered, so we didn’t have a kitchen,” explains Barratt. Despite some bad press about how hot meals have been introduced in schools throughout the country under the government’s initiative, Barratt’s experience has been a positive one. “We have three ladies who work in our pod who are absolutely amazing, and they’re all parents at our school,” she says. “So they really care about what they’re doing and the service they’re delivering.” This supply of hot meals has encouraged eligible parents to register their children for free school meals because it is less obvious which child is a recipient of the benefit. Whereas before, it would be obvious, as sandwiches would be taken in only for those on free school meals, now all children eat hot meals together in the hall. Take-up increased from two to 12 pupils as a result, which makes a difference of about £4,000 to Brambleside’s budget – a substantial sum for a primary school of its size.

january 2012


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schools in focus

primary update


What’s going on in the world of primary school and nursery management


Government to review use of calculators in primary schools The use of calculators in primary schools are to be looked at as part of the national curriculum review, Schools Minister Nick Gibb has announced. Gibb warned that too many children had come to rely on calculators – and that their mental and written arithmetic had suffered as a result. He said calculators should only be introduced once pupils had a thorough grounding in basic maths, including knowing times tables by heart. The schools minister pointed to evidence from around the world that the best-performing education systems calculators are used only in the equivalent of upper primary schools. He said: “Children can become too dependent on calculators if they use them at too young an age. They shouldn’t be reaching for a gadget every time they need to do a simple sum. “They need to master addition, subtraction, times tables and division, using quick, reliable written methods. This rigour provides the groundwork for the more difficult maths they will come across later in their education. “You can’t expect children to cope with complicated quadratic equations if they don’t know their times tables by heart.”

january 2012


welwyn garden city

A third of children reach expected phonics level

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has admitted the government is “unashamedly ambitious” in its bid to drive up the standard of children’s reading. He said that although it was good that more than 80% of children routinely met expected reading levels at age seven and 11, it was time to focus on driving up the performances of the one in five children who fail to reach the expected level and on getting more children to exceed expectations. He said synthetic phonics, taught systematically, was the method proven to improve reading standards for all children, including the weakest readers, and ensure they reached their potential. Gibb acknowledged classroom teachers’ efforts to improve children’s reading skills but pointed to figures showing that: • More than 80,000 seven-year-olds can read no better than a five-year-old • One in 10 11-year-old boys can read no better than a seven-year-old • And the percentage of seven-year-olds and 11-year-olds who meet the expected level has flat-lined over the last five years.

Internationally, England is rated 25th in the world for reading, according to the 2009 PISA reading study, down from seventh nine years ago. The schools minister was speaking as figures were released showing that 32% of six-year-olds who took the screening check reached what he called the “appropriately challenging” expected level, which was set by about 50 teachers whose schools were involved in the pilot. He said the figures suggested many more pupils could benefit from phonics, giving them a solid grounding in the basics at an early stage. Gibb commented: “We need to face up to the uncomfortable truth that, despite the hard work of teachers, not enough of our children are able to read to a high enough standard. We have to take account of our place internationally and listen to business leaders.” The teaching of phonics is being prioritised in primary teacher training. The government has pledged schools up to £3,000 in match funding so they can buy training products and books. It is also making phonics and reading a key part of the new Ofsted inspection process.

schools in focus primary news

Pupils learn the value of a different three Rs


Templewood School, Welwyn Garden City

Free resource packs from deaf charity

Pupils from Templewood School in Pentley Park, Welwyn Garden City recently spent the morning with manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric in a scheme designed to focus the childrens’ attention on the new three ‘Rs’: reduce, reuse and recycle. The 29 students, ranging in age from seven to 10, learned the importance of reducing energy use in our everyday lives, reusing things wherever possible and recycling to help reduce carbon emissions and limit the effects of climate change. Parent Ian Pottinger, who works for a company that partners with the firm, was keen to involve his son’s school as soon as he heard about the programme and even persuaded his company to pay the travel costs for the class. “If we can capture a child’s interest at an early age, in time they will become much better stewards of their world and help to influence their families too,” he commented. Organiser Jenny Maskrey explained to the children how important it was for everyone to think about the energy they use. “We set experiments for the children so that they could get involved and have tried to base the morning on the curriculum so that the session becomes a benefit to the teachers as well,” she explained.

Using a specially designed workbook complete with stickers and purpose-built experiments, the children discovered how photovoltaic panels can use solar energy to reduce electricity consumption and also investigated how air source heat pumps can provide heating in the middle of winter, by extracting ‘free’ energy from the outdoor air. They also recycled their drinking cups into bird feeders and visited the company’s special wormery, where kitchen waste is recycled.

For more information on arranging a similar trip for your school, email Jenny Maskrey on

news INBRIEF Landywood Primary School, Walsall

School saves with charitable green donations Digital printer Printmonster has donated its leftover paper to Landywood Primary School in a bid to help the environment, while saving the school vital funds in these financially troubling times. Headteacher John Withers said the paper was especially useful in the run-up to Christmas for decorations, cards and scenery. The print industry is estimated to be the fourth most polluting industry in the UK.

Schools that sign up for a world record-breaking attempt for the most young people signing and singing simultaneously will receive an educational resource pack about communication produced by SignHealth. The pack, which explores sign language and non-verbal communication and includes a DVD, will be sent to schools taking part in the sign2sing event on 8 February. Lesley Gorton, events manager for SignHealth, the national charity for deaf people, said of the resource pack: “It not only provides information about the event and guidance on how to teach children to sing and sign the sign2sing song but also includes a range of information and fun activities that teachers can use in the classroom to increase understanding about non-verbal communication. “It contains understandable information about deafness, as well as fun exercises to get children communicating without using words. It also provides an explanation about how we communicate, semaphore, fingerspelling and lip-reading. “We hope that teachers will be able to use the pack to get children involved in the fun activities, which raise awareness of sign language, as well as helping them to improve their memory, concentration and fine motor skills.” The sign2sing event is designed to raise awareness of deafness and the work of SignHealth, as well as acting as a fundraiser for the charity through sponsorship from businesses and a suggested donation of £1 for everyone taking part. Young people from all over the country and overseas will learn to sign a song, entitled ‘Sign2sing’, which has been composed especially for the event. The lyrics were written by Garry Slack, author of the award-winning ‘Sign with Olli’ books and the music was composed by Paul Fairey, who has written various theme tunes for television and radio. The closing date for registrations is 20 January. For more information or to sign up, visit

SEND IN YOUR STORIES We are always looking for local school news. If you have a story to share, email

/ january 2012



schools in focus interview

The Devon Eleven Five primary schools in Devon joined forces in 2006 to become the First Federation. Julia Dennison visits business manager Carol Chapman and executive headteacher Paul Jones at their head office, to find out why they believe federations are the way forward

january 2012


schools in focus interview


cross the tarmacked play area of Blackpool C E Primary School in Newton Abbot, Devon, sits a small building that looks distinctively like the modern offices of a small business. An edifice of picture windows and tasteful wood panelling, it sits incongruously among the hopscotch markings and playthings so that it’s not immediately clear if it’s part of the school or something they rent out to the local community. In fact, these are the offices of the First Federation, a self-proclaimed ‘family’ of five primary schools in Devon that, as one of the first primary federations of its kind, has set the president for school groupings and systems throughout the country. Here, in a new building set on the grounds of one of the cluster’s schools, executive headteacher Paul Jones and federation business manager Carol Chapman oversee the brand that includes Blackpool, Newton Ferrers, Chudleigh Knighton, Salcombe and Lady Seaward’s primary schools. Jones has been so influential in his ideas, he has been awarded an OBE for services to education and, and is such an influential pathfinder when it comes to federating, that early on when he has rung the Department for Education with federationrelated questions, they’ve directed him to a “man in Devon”, who turned out to be him. Setting itself apart and leading the way are fundamental to the First Federation ethos. With no start-up money, the group bid for capital grants that enabled it to build its £100,000 offices. Having this separate building is essential to a model that removes top leadership out of the individual schools and puts it in the hands of fulltime federation leaders, employed collectively by the member schools. On 1 November, First Federation converted to academy status as a memeber of The Primary Academies Trust, a group of 11 schools consisting of two federations and two single schools – known by the DfE as the ‘Devon Eleven’. So keen are its leaders on the federation model, The First Federation will maintain its five-school formation within the larger group.

Becoming the First The First Federation was established in September 2006. Prior to that, Jones had been a headteacher for 10 years, his last post at Blackpool Primary. Primary-level education has always been his passion, “because we make a bigger difference than secondaries do,” he explains. “If we get it right, we can change society.” Chapman’s previous role was as a business manager at a small primary school, where she was seconded by the local authority for one day a week as a support officer, which saw her going into schools across Devon to help them out of muddles with things like HR and finance. Blackpool was one of these schools, calling her in for cover to close the academic year when the business manager was seriously injured in an accident. When she didn’t return, Chapman stayed on, working for the school and the local authority for about two years. When the opportunity to form the federation came about, she took on the role of

/ january 2012



schools in focus interview

its head business manager. “I had to look for somebody who could actually not think school, but think federation,” remembers Jones of recruiting for the role. “There’s stuff they need to know – but actually what you want is a type of person.”

Evolving profession In Devon primary schools, it’s uncommon to have someone in the role of ‘business manager’ or ‘bursar’, instead the job title ‘school administrator’ is more common. Jones believes this highlights the inherent problems of small school leadership and often provides the reason for forming a school cluster. He has seen the roles of school administrator, alongside that of headteacher, grow exponentially in the last decade and a half to the extent that having only one person do each job has been unmanageable. “What we’ve done is piled more and more responsibilities and accountabilities on – and it’s at breaking point,” he comments. To alleviate this, he felt it was time to redefine both the headteacher and school business manager roles in primary schools. In the First Federation’s model, an executive headteacher and federation business manager sit at the top, shared between the five schools, and each member school has its own head of teaching and learning and a school administrator. Jones gives his simple explanation: “Anything that can be done once will be done by the executive headteacher and business manager; anything that has to be done on a daily basis is done by the head of teaching and learning and the school administrator in the school.” The idea for a federation came from the conclusion that there was too much unnecessary duplication in primary schools. “It’s a totally inefficient business model,” says Jones of the single primary school. “If you looked at it from outside, you would say: ‘That’s crazy.’ There’s no way you would run any form of business – and we are in the business of learning – where everybody does the same thing in every outlet and every setting, to the point where it becomes undoable.” The result is that people are put off the job of headteacher, and schools struggle to fill the role as a result.

First thoughts The initial idea to start the First Federation came to Jones in 2004, after a meeting with Blackpool’s chair of governors who was an area bank manager overseeing 40-plus banks in one region. He suggested that running a group of schools like a chain of banks or private businesses could solve the problems Jones was experiencing. This was music to the headteacher’s ears and they spent the next nine months developing the federation model with the help of Blackpool’s governing body. In 2005, the governing body of Blackpool voted unanimously to federate – before having any school to federate with. “There were no partners then, it was just the principal of federation,” Jones explains. And at that time, there was little else to base this model on. They were very much starting from scratch. “It was a very enlightened and forward-thinking governing body to do that,” remarks Jones. With a minimum of five schools in mind, they put forward an open offer to the local authority for any school that would like join them.

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The first school to sign up was Chudleigh Knighton C of E Primary School in 2006, a struggling school down the road that had had nine headteachers in six years (see box out). There had been a large number of issues in the school: it was very small, at 67 pupils; standards were at the lowest percentile in the country; the budget was in deficit and its leadership was inconsistent. “It was a mess,” remembers Jones. “It was the most unloved school I’ve ever been to in my life.” When its governing body approached the First Federation to join, some people on the group’s governing body voiced concern over taking on such a needy school. “But actually that’s the whole point of education,” was Jones’ response. “If anything, it was our moral purpose [to take it over]. There is a moral imperative in federations about the fact that all children deserve the same right to a great education.” Two more schools joined in April 2008 and the fifth in September 2010. The two to join in 2008 were small schools on the ‘causing concern’ list with the local authority that were finding it hard to recruit headteachers. The fifth had a successful headteacher, but she was struggling with how her school would survive. “We held an open day and the governing bodies from those schools were really taken by idea of a federation and could see how it could work for their school,” Jones remembers.

There is a moral imperative in federations about the fact that all children deserve the same right to a great education


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schools in focus interview

Initially, their governors were concerned over geographical distance – with as much as 53 miles between the furthest schools – however, Jones is adamant that geography doesn’t matter as much as people think. “We knew that geography wouldn’t matter, because we have the structure that would enable us to grow the federation,” he says. “As long as you have the leadership distributed at the right levels into the schools, where the day-to-day decision-making can be made, then those schools still maintain their local individuality, but are part of a collective group that gets better.” He uses the example of High Street chains, which cope perfectly well without their outlets being within a few miles of each other – in fact, the very thought of having two Specsavers next door to one another is preposterous. “But they have a brand,” adds Jones, “and the brand is important because it’s what makes them part of the group.”

spending; looking for “non-cashable savings” in staff efficiencies; maintaining health and safety and safeguarding standards on a daily basis. This is no ‘McDonaldisation’ of schools, but rather a way of replicating techniques that work. As the school starts its journey into academy status, Jones and Chapman are adamant to keep the federation structure within the larger academy trust. “The best route for many schools is to become a federation first, then become an academy,” says Jones. “You can do that at the same time if you become an academy under a single trust, but you haven’t done any cultural change. Federations are about cultural change, where governors have to start thinking about all children, rather than just one school, and academies are about business change.” First Federation decided not to become an academy on their own because they were only 620 pupils all-told, which Jones believed was too small. “I always believe a federation should be at least 800-1,000 pupils anyway,” he says. In conclusion, what the federation brings to the table is not only peer support and centralised leadership as ways to improve any kind of school – struggling or otherwise – but it also gives schools the time to take stock and be proactive in their educational offering. This is invaluable and further strengthens the argument that what First Federation has to offer could just be what saves the future of the primary school as we know it. “I don’t think a single primary school can exist anymore,” Jones says. The DfE and National College have cottoned on to this, and have made the encouragement of school grouping as part of their agenda. Undoubtedly, more schools will be told to give that man in Devon a call as a result.

Federations are about cultural change; academies are about business change

Brand design Like a High Street chain, the First Federation also has a brand. This works on the Pareto principle of 80/20 – so 80% of the brand is made up of what Jones calls “internal consistencies”, and 20% is the schools’ individuality, or ability to appear bespoke to its local community. These internal consistencies, from a teaching and learning point of view, include a certain feel to the classrooms, including ‘writing walls’ where pupils’ work is displayed, emphasising their year-on-year improvement in writing; and a proactive approach to assessment by involving pupils. Chapman oversees the internal consistencies from a business management point of view, which includes highlighting the importance of cost-effective

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Case study Chudleigh Knighton C of E Primary School was a failing school before it joined the First Federation. This saw the installment of a head of teaching and learning in the shape of Jackie Huntington and new school administrator, Sue Noon – both of whom have a background working at Blackpool Primary. The leaders at this small primary school welcome the mix of autonomy and big-picture leadership that comes with being in a federation. Noon is left to look after things like the registry, dinner money, health and safety, school banking and organising trips, while federation business manager Carol Chapman oversees the larger budget. Huntington is also left to do what she does best – educating the children. Both sing the praises of having the support of the federation leaders and members at the end of the phone. “If I don’t know the answer to a question, I can bother Carol,” Noon quips. Huntington agrees: “Most of the time, I can do my own thing here and implement things that I want to implement, or undertake strategic planning, but if I’ve got a problem, there’s a whole network out there.” As we speak, she is planning to get the head of teaching and learning at Newton Ferrers to take her through an Ofsted inspection, since, as a fairly new head, it’s new to her. “My whole attention and focus is teaching and learning, which is what I love and came into the profession for,” she comments. “It couldn’t be any better.”

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schools in focus secondary news


secondary update What’s going on in the world of secondary schools and further education




Carmarthenshire schools receive £87m in capital funds Twelve schools in Carmarthenshire can be refurbished or rebuilt after the Welsh Government supported proposals for £87m in extra funding for the area, reports. The funding to be spent by 2020 on the Carmarthenshire’s schools, when added to funding from the local authority, will total £151m, less than the original £225m promised from the council’s Modernising Education Programme. The money will allow for further reorganisation of the county’s schools. In Llanelli it will allow the £14m merger of Copperworks and Lakefield schools to create the

long-planned new Seaside school. Upgrades to secondary schools at Strade, Coedcae, St John Lloyd, and Llanelli Vocational Village will also be funded. Councillor Gwynne Wooldridge, executive board member for education, told the website: “Hundreds and hundreds of children now enjoy high quality provision, and this funding means that thousands more will have access to first class facilities, offering fantastic opportunities to our young pupils which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.” This forms part of a £1.4bn investment in education across Wales.

Work commenced at first BREEAM Outstanding school in Wales Coleg Cymundeol Y Dderwen, Bridgend

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has attended a ground breaking ceremony to mark the start onsite of a new flagship secondary education campus in Bridgend County Borough – the first education project in Wales on target to be awarded a BREEAM Outstanding rating. Constructed by the Leadbitter Group, the 14,000 square metre Coleg Cymundeol Y

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Dderwen building is set to open at the start of the new school year in 2013. The new facility in Tondu will cater for 1,570 pupils aged 11–18 and incorporate extensive community facilities for use outside of school hours. The £34m project is a significant investment for Bridgend County Borough Council, which has secured substantial funding from the Welsh government’s school building transitional funding to assist with the delivery of this major scheme. Coleg Cymundeol Y Dderwen is also the first project to be awarded under the South East Wales Schools Capital Programme (SEWSCAP) Framework in Wales. The project includes a host of low-impact design features, including the use of a combined heat and power system. Energy-efficient, it provides the opportunity to serve the nearby existing swimming pool and residential home, as well as the school, with surplus electricity fed into the national grid. Natural light and fresh air ventilation are also included.

Facilities include a four court sports hall, activity studio and main hall. The building design has been future-proofed for ease of accommodating changes in teaching practice. Corridors have been virtually eliminated with the space reused for informal learning in an approach that makes staff supervision easier and has been shown to improve pupil behaviour. The school is set to be the first education building in Wales to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating—surpassing the required 85% score. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “The Welsh government is committed to making sure that every child in Wales is educated in an environment that is expected for the 21st Century. The £26m we have invested in this site will help provide state-of-the art facilities for the next generation of pupils to learn and reach their full potential. I look forward to seeing the project come to fruition, on time and on budget.”

SEND IN YOUR STORIES We are always looking for local school news. If you have a story to share, email

schools in focus secondary news

How you like them apples? Children across the UK are helping to revive Britain’s endangered apple varieties following the first successful year of creating their own school ground orchards. Following a year of being involved in the Fruit-Full Schools project, 50 secondary schools have now created orchards to preserve the long-forgotten local varieties of fruit within their neighbouring communities. The Fruit-Full Schools programme, developed by the national school grounds charity Learning through Landscapes, aims to support environmental sustainability and demonstrate the benefits of locally grown produce. So far it has enabled secondary schools to graft 1,500 local heritage apple trees that are in risk of dying out. As they enter the second year of this four year project, schools have so far grafted their trees, developed nursery environments and designed their own orchard areas in their grounds, each one receiving a further £1,000 to implement these designs. The schools have also been allocated a Fruit-Full Schools coordinator from Learning through Landscapes, offering expertise, guidance and advice on orchard development. Since the 1950s, the area of orchard habitat across England has declined by more than 60%, and according to recent reports made by The People’s Trust for Endangered Species, half of those that remain are in a neglected condition. Orchards have been identified as a priority habitat in the UK’s

Biodiversity Action Plan and more recently, community orchards have received government endorsement with the release of a new guide to encourage the growth of orchards in the community. The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles described the community orchard as “a brilliant way for communities to get together”. The Fruit-Full Schools project is helping to rejuvenate the growth of over 150 different English varieties and is having a huge impact on all of the participating school’s communities, with 76 local community organisations supporting their local schools in the programme. In the years to come, the schools plan to replant some of their home grown trees in local primary schools and community spaces, to implement further designs to their own orchards and run campaigns to save local fruit by aiming to collect 100,000 signatures. By 2013 the schools will celebrate the harvest of their first fruit by redistributing produce among the local community and disadvantaged groups. Pauline Williamson the environmental and outdoor learning coordinator at participating school, Ormiston Victory Academy, explained: “One of our selected trees, the Five Crowned Pippin dates back to the 1500s. We believe that this and other varieties should not die out. Our orchard will help in the revival of up to 28 endangered Norfolk fruit varieties.” Resources from the Fruit-Full Schools programme are available at

GRANT WATCH For the second year running, schools and junior clubs have the chance to win tickets to a Sale Sharks, the Rugby Union Stockport team, home match, a coaching session from a Sale Sharks player at the school, grants for balls and other rugby equipment, and print equipment from Lexmark and Printerland. To be eligible, organisations must apply to Sale Sharks, explaining how they would use the grant to promote rugby to their team members and the local community. Last year’s lucky winners were St James’ Sports College, Manchester RFC, and Wilmslow Rugby Club. To apply, or find out more, send an email to Jonathan Edwards, LOCOG Athletes Commission chair, deputy chair of Nations & Regions, Olympic gold medal winner and triple jump world record holder, visited Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh last month to speak to students about his career as an elite athlete and his role on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The event was part of a week of Olympic afigures giving talks in schools through the Speakers for Schools programme.

/ january 2012



schools in focus Trend analysis

Is sharing one business manager over a number of schools feasible? Graham Jarvis looks at the challenges of being a school business manager who oversees more than one school

Cluster bomb?

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schools in focus Trend analysis


he National College says that there were 2,000-3,000 school business managers in the year 2000, and now there are almost 10,000 of them today. These figures reflect their popularity, and they constitute those that have been trained by the college. With this comes the growing trend of sharing an SBM amongst a cluster of mainly primary schools within a local authority’s area to save time, resources and money. Among these participants are some secondary schools, but while most of them can afford their own SBMs, many of them share one with their local primaries. “Oakleigh Research found that when it estimated the benefits of cluster management across the cluster of all schools, that the savings could be significant and equate to five to 10% of school resources, and these findings have been confirmed by existing the primary school partnerships,” says Trevor Summerson, head of school management projects at the National College. He also believes that this approach and the sharing of well-trained SBMs is the way forward as it can offer tangible results. This is why there are currently 200 cluster partnerships involving 1,200 schools.

Fresh approach It appears to be a feasible strategy as it offers a fresh approach to sharing resources, including information communication technology, experiences, staff and knowledge. The efficiencies are created by collaborating with each other to increase their economies of scale and purchasing power with the help of an SBM. It also allows headteachers to focus their time on doing what they do best: leading their schools to provide pupil care and teacher support. This permits them to maintain a high level of teaching and educational standards with their schools. Yet the question arises about whether the schools are spreading themselves too thinly at a time when budgets and resources are tight. Vicky Helliwell, headteacher of Kingston Park Primary School, thinks it is a very feasible strategy. “I would not be able to afford a full-time school business manager, and so sharing with others schools in my ‘family’ is an ideal situation,” she explains before arguing that the scheme makes her family of schools more efficient and effective. This is because her school business manager, Shirley Gascoigne, can pass on information to all of the schools within her cluster at once rather than one at a time. Gascoigne attends meetings and events on her behalf too.

Spread too thinly? Karyn Keane, headteacher at Newport High School, says that she hasn’t experienced the issue of resources being spread too thinly. “Where a group of schools have agreed a shared focus to reduce costs on things like print cartridges and toners, the work is equally useful to us all,” she comments. Within her cluster of schools there is also an understanding that when it comes to school

I would not be able to afford a full-time school business manager, and so sharing with others schools in my ‘family’ is an ideal situation improvement plans, which may involve the submission of grants and bid applications, all of her partner schools know that they will need to wait their turn, which will come at the appropriate time. She adds that the main difficulties arise from line management, which falls onto the shoulders of one headteacher and so it can actually be a timeconsuming exercise. This is because it involves sharing feedback and the gathering of views to ensure that each partner has information about the progress of any project or strategy. This may, for example, be about their approach to negotiating and identifying the points for joint procurement contracts, expertise and the sharing of best practices. Her school has also benefited from shared caretaking and site staff for PAT testing, and it allows the schools to analyse where maintenance arrangements and cost-savings can be made.

Useful and practical Helliwell believes that the collaborative approach created by school cluster management is “very useful and practical; our schools are quite close geographically, but with modern technology this does not have to be the case.” Keane agrees that it is an invaluable exercise “in terms of improving the partnering schools’ working relationships, while also increasing their financial and business knowledge.” Yet Keane doesn’t think that it is always easy to manage. “One cluster business manager serving 11 headteachers has proved difficult,” she says. The answer appears to be in having effective regular line-management and the ability to create opportunities for those involved to report back (see the Devon 11 case study on page 16). Part of this also involves each school understanding that the financial gains for each school will be different, and so this approach will only work with schools that have developed a good relationship. She says the schools also need to consider the SBM’s team, roles and responsibility. For example, who does he or she lead and from which school does the SBM come from? Without a delegated team, the benefits and opportunities of this approach are minimised and it can lead to inefficiencies. So this kind of thing has to be established by all of the parties before an SBM takes up his or her appointment. This also ensures that all of the schools are committed to making this strategy work.

SBMs uncover savings Shirley Gascoigne is an SBM for Ramsden Primary School, Kingston Park Primary and Nursery School, St. Augustine’s Junior School and

its infant and nursery school. She says she strategically supports their headteachers with their finance, HR and premises management. For the day to day administration an office manager is employed, and this allows her to focus on her core strengths. For example, she is a qualified accountant and this helps her to become more and more aware of the cost-savings that can be achieved across her four schools. “My schools employ me for six to 15 hours a week, depending on their size and the complexities of their budgets, and they all request that I report to the governing body meetings in the evening,” she explains. This means she has to be able to work flexible hours. In contrast some schools hire a full-time SBM, but much of their time can be taken up with dealing with day-to-day issues like covering for administrative staff and dealing with parents or carers. Instead of doing this she focuses on the daily running of the schools she oversees, and this is even though she manages the administration team. This permits her do to things like prepare financial documents for meetings, write policies and liaise on Health and Safety audits as well as project manage building works for each school.

Hold regular meetings Angie Dinnell-Heywood, partnership school business manager, at the Priory School in Shrewsbury says that regular meetings with her schools’ headteachers and the chairperson of the board of governors of her partnering schools enable them all to agree the priorities of their action plan, and as a result they can focus on and agree the actions that she needs to take. It also encourages collaboration. She warns that their priorities can change, and with four or five schools within the cluster to manage this can make the job of SBM quite stressful. It is therefore important for SBMs to meet and organise regular meetings with their schools’ headteachers and governors in order to maintain and encourage a high level of transparency between them all. “There is a real need for SBMs in every school; or at least for every school to have access to one”, she says while also stating that there is a danger of the schools spreading themselves and their business managers too thinly. She concludes that in an ideal world, and given the right level of funding every school should have a school business manager. So while there are clearly some challenges, it appears that school cluster business management is feasible and SBMs are an important part of its success. Much depends on how the schools plan to employ them though.

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schools in focus vendor profile

Support for the journey As schools convert to academy status and take on more financial autonomy as a result, good support is priceless – especially that which comes free with your bank account. Ian Buss, head of education at Lloyds TSB Commercial, explains why his bank has more academy clients than any other


year and a half ago, there were little more than 200 academies in England. This number has grown exponentially and as of 1 December 2011, there are a staggering 1,463 academies, and numbers are set to continue to increase. The majority of schools, particularly secondary schools, are at least considering the benefits of conversion, if not already converted or in the process of converting. School business managers can expect to see increased pressure on their role as a result, as when a school converts to academy status, the onus will often fall on them to see the changeover through and ensure the institution is well placed for a future of autonomy. Much of what is demanded of these school professionals under academy status is new territory, and their already oversaturated working schedule leaves little time for training and up-skilling. With there unlikely to be any extra budget for more staff members, SBMs have to look for reliable sources of help and support. Over half of all academies choose to bank with Lloyds TSB Commercial, which is a result of the bank’s long-standing expertise and investment in the education sector. Part of this focus is seen in Lloyds TSB’s team of specialist education relationship managers, many of whom are school governors themselves. These managers provide the support through academy conversion many schools will be looking for. “They understand the academy conversion process and many of the hurdles and choices schools face on that journey,” explains Ian Buss, head of education at Lloyds TSB Commercial. “Specialist support and free transactional banking are part of our proposition for state funded schools.”

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banking checklist •

Set up a new bank account – your academy will be a new legal entity so you need a new account in that name Review your systems – conversion is a great time to fully embrace electronic banking and do away with your cheque book Streamline your funds from parents – go cashless so parents pay for school meals and trips online or by a Paypoint card And lastly, ask your bank to support you through these changes.

schools in focus vendor profile

Benefits to learning Lloyds TSB takes a holistic approach to its relationships with schools. Not only does the bank provide excellent support to a school’s finance team, but it also helps its pupils achieve through important initiatives. The first is a financial literacy programme for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, which any school can use to help their pupils’ understanding of money and the benefits of saving and budgeting. Crucial in these financially trying times. The other is the Lloyds Scholars programme, a bursary scheme that supports young people from belowaverage income families to study at selected leading universities. To those who qualify, Lloyds TSB offers a comprehensive support package that includes annual bursary payments to help with living costs and study materials; additional annual cash awards based on academic achievement; end-of-course excellence awards for top scholars and paid summer internships with Lloyds Banking Group with no pressure to join the company later.


Over half of all academies bank with Lloyds TSB Commercial

case study Tracy Jackson, assistant principal and former business manager of Ossett Academy and Sixth Form College, has been banking with Lloyds TSB Commercial for a number of years, after initially being impressed by their relationship management focus. She explained: “It wasn’t so much about the product Lloyds offered, though it seemed great and very tailored to schools, it was more about the fact that the staff seemed really trained up to work with schools, whereas other banks treated us like a business, Lloyds treated us like a school.” Jackson now works very closely with Katie Lowe, her Lloyds TSB Commercial relationship manager, ringing her on her mobile whenever she has a question. “It feels like they go the extra mile,” she says. She has been so impressed by Lloyds TSB Commercial’s support through her school’s conversion process last year that she has been recommending the bank to colleagues. One nearby school decided to go with another bank, and they are having a lot of problems as a result. To this she quips: “I told you to go with Lloyds!”

The staff seemed trained up to work with schools, whereas other banks treated us like a business, Lloyds treated us like a school Help through the conversion Lloyds TSB Commercial has been working proactively to support schools converting to academy status. When a school becomes an academy, it is required to set up a new bank account as it is a new legal entity. Schools often need these accounts opened quickly, and Lloyds TSB Commercial has streamlined the process by removing the need for individual academies to provide identification for their signatories. Buss gives an example of a school that approached Lloyds TSB for a bank account one morning and had their account opened by the end of the same day. As part of its support for academies, Lloyds TSB Commercial has also held a number of free events over the last year as a platform for schools to learn about becoming an academy and network with other schools considering conversion. This kind of networking is essential, according to Buss, as he believes more schools will need to work together under the academy system. “We’ll see much more collaboration as we go forward,” he predicts – whether through multi-academy or umbrella trusts. With this in mind, he believes it is very important to think carefully about which legal structure and model is right for you in order to create the balance of support and autonomy whilst keeping your school’s individual personality. “With the right legal structure and framework you don’t have to lose that identity,” he adds.

Finding efficiencies As part of its support to academies, Lloyds TSB Commercial is helping school business managers find efficiency in their school finances, for example by supporting those schools that choose to go cashless. “The amount of time taken up processing cash and cheques in schools is huge,” comments Buss. “We can work with them to reduce or almost completely remove those issues.” By going cashless, Lloyds TSB customers have even been known to save significant costs. “I had a conversation with one school recently that had spent a whole day trying to balance their cash and cheques because they were out by £20,” Buss remembers. “Most traditional companies would write that off but that is more difficult for a school as it could have been a pupils dinner or trip money. If not reconciled, that child may not have been fed or could have missed out on a trip. An electronic cashless system would have avoided that issue and over the years it is much more efficient. If we’re going to have an extended period of austerity, these efficiencies are hugely important.” A barrier to converting to cashless is often sighted as the costs involved but Buss recalls a conversation with a school that claims it is £15,000 a year better off through taking the cashless step. “Remember, best value doesn’t always mean the cheapest,” adds Buss. As more schools become financially independent academies, it is more important than ever for them to choose partners that know the education sector well and understand the conversion process. Lloyds TSB Commercial’s success rate is clearly evidenced in the fact that over half of all existing academies are already banking with them. The reasons for this are numerous. Alongside well-trained relationship managers with a deep understanding of the primary and secondary education sector, Lloyds TSB Commercial also has good working relationships with the Department for Education and organisations like the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM), which developed an accreditation programme for the bank’s school relationship managers. “We treat the sector as an education sector; we don’t treat it like just another SME,” concludes Buss. “The sector is completely unique, with unique needs and pressures and all of our relationship managers focused on the sector are trained to understand it. We make it easy, we’re local, so we can come out and see the school when they need us, and we understand education. Above all, my team have a real passion for supporting their schools.”

For more information on setting up a Lloyds TSB School Banking Account, contact Ian’s team at, 0800 681 6078 or visit

/ january 2012



schools in focus independent news

independent update


What’s going on in the world of academies, free schools and fee-paying private schools

funding watch

Parents don’t want choice

100 new free schools to receive £600m

A report finds that over 80% of people believe parents should send their child to the closest school, despite the coalition government pushing for choice in the shape of free schools and academies

The government is to spend an additional £600m to open 100 new free schools in England over the next few years, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement. The money, which will not come from the existing education budget, will be spent on areas with the greatest pressure on school places. Around 12 of the new schools are to focus specifically on maths for 16-18 year olds. The aim of these new schools is to educate a new generation of mathematicians and establish England as a world leader in the field. Ministers have said that this move is important in order to boost the economy and stimulate growth in the long-term. Ministers hope that the schools will be run by university maths departments and academies.

More than eight out of 10 people believe parents should send their children to the nearest state school, according to a recent survey, despite school choice being central to the Department for Education’s free school and academies campaign. Nearly two-thirds of participants in the British Social Attitudes Survey said choice of school was not a priority, the Times Educational Supplement reports. A further 22% agreed that choice was not a priority, but only if the quality of the schools and their social mix were more even. Meanwhile, a majority (68%) of participants felt parents had a “basic right” to choose a school

and 50% of people felt it was parents’ duty to choose the best one for their child. Dr Sonia Exley, a lecturer at the London School of Economics who led the survey, criticised the coalition government for putting too much emphasis on choice. “By providing more choice by creating more schools, all you are doing is shifting the problem. Giving the parents the option over where they send their child does not necessarily mean it will promote equality among schools,” she told the TES. Instead, Dr Exley said, the government’s focus on choice distracts people from the need to improve local schools.

inbrief Catholic schools make academy move

Dozens of faith schools are readying themselves to make the conversion to academy status over the next six months, with 800 already registering an interest with the Department for Education. Forty faith schools converted to academy status over the last few months, as the Catholic Church relaxes its attitude toward academy conversion. The church initially had reservations about academy schools maintaining a Catholic ethos following their conversion, and the ownership of land. As of November, 100 Church of England, 39 Catholic schools and 14 Jewish faith schools had become academies.

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january 2012


Sarah and Jonathan Ellse of Chase Academy, with their father, principal Mark Ellse. Both students are off to Cambridge next year. Jonathan is going after winning an organ scholarship.


schools in focus advice

Free schools: myths and evidence

Early lessons from the first free schools are to be published in a new report – ‘Myths, evidence and innovation: a guide to making the most of free school freedoms’ – by the CfBT Education Trust charity. The author, former teacher Briar Lipson, shares her experience of setting up free schools january 2012


schools in focus advice


ree schools have an important role to play in driving up educational standards, by encouraging and testing innovations, creating a competitive market and providing more choice. But in order to be successful, free school proposers – whether they are already education leaders with expertise or not – need to think long and hard about what will ensure their school’s long-term success. Our research and direct experience of working with parent groups in setting up their own schools has led to the creation of a new toolkit of advice: ‘Myths, evidence and innovation: a guide to making the most of free school freedoms’. This signposts the relevant research to help the founders of new schools take an ‘evidence-based’ approach to decision-making and to see through some of the myths that surround schooling.

Buildings Once school environments achieve minimum standards, the quantitative evidence of any benefit to pupil attainment from further investment is at best weak. Despite this, most qualitative research finds a perception of benefit from capital investment to pupil attainment, motivation and behaviour and to staff morale and motivation. The success of any building is not only based on levels of investment, it is also contingent on good design. For example, what kinds of learning do you want to see take place in which classrooms? At Wellington College, where in 2010 93.2% of A Levels awarded were graded B or above, staff have adopted the ‘Harkness method’ for teaching in International Baccalaureate and A Level classes. This emphasises students taking responsibility for their own learning, and teachers acting as facilitators. According to the Wellington College website this changes the way that learning takes place. The method is underpinned by an entirely different classroom layout. Instead of sitting in rows or small groups, being lectured from the front and learning in a passive way, up to 14 students are seated together with their teacher around an oval table to enable interaction and active discussion, and whiteboards are set up on walls around the room to enable everyone to produce notes or drawings for the group. There is no ‘head of table’ or dominant position and it promotes a more tutorial style of learning.

Pay and conditions Most schools will say they want to attract and retain the best possible teachers. But how can you make this meaningful? Local authority schools must abide by statutory requirements for teachers’ pay and conditions, but free schools need not. While it may make sense to begin with a standard teacher contract of employment this should then be reviewed, line by line, in order to identify what could and should be altered in the light of your vision for the school. Examples of innovations in working conditions that free schools could consider include:  Alterations to the length and spread of the school calendar, or to the working week or day; for example the Norwich Free School’s school year comprises six terms, with a two-week holiday between each and a four-week holiday in August  Introduction of greater flexibility to be family-friendly, or to accommodate part-time working or sharing of staff with other schools  Facilitating secondments to other schools or to exchange programmes abroad to ensure staff have opportunities to learn from good practice elsewhere. Innovations already happening within schools include

ARK Academies, which offer their staff a generous bursary towards the cost of completing a part-time MA in education and international development opportunities. The Harris Federation of Academies offers private medical insurance, performance bonuses and a heavily subsidised MA course. Some schools successfully employ staff on slightly lower wages in return for them teaching for fewer hours per week and therefore having more time to plan effective lessons and keep on top of marking during timetabled school hours. At CfBT free schools teachers will have 20% rather than 10% planning, preparation and assessment time.

School and class size There is no right or wrong answer as to size but it is worth considering how you could adapt your model to mitigate the negatives and maximise the benefits of the class and school sizes you aim for. For example, the ‘schools-withinschools’ model establishes small schools within larger schools, to ensure they benefit from big-school facilities while at the same time having small school communities, as illustrated below; and some charter schools in the US have established themselves within existing schools, taking over empty classrooms that sit directly alongside the original school’s classrooms. In our survey of the first wave of free schools to be approved, of the primary school respondents one was planning to open a school with two forms of entry, and the rest were all proposing schools with just one form of entry. Similarly across all respondents the most common average class size brackets were between 16 and 20, and between 21 and 26. So while the evidence may not always stack up, and the explanations may be diverse, smallness is clearly a factor that remains attractive to parents.

Leadership and monitoring Part of the explanation for why many schools lack a clear underlying vision is that up until now most schools have been run by their local authority, which has broad and far-reaching objectives for pupils, laid down and altered regularly by politicians. By comparison, free schools have the opportunity to create and sustain a school with a more distinctive vision; one that is comfortable with the fact it might be attractive to some but not necessarily all. One of the key areas of potential difference in the way a school is lead is in how it assesses success. For example KIPP (the Knowledge is Power Programme) is a highly successful chain of charter schools where the development of character has been as important as the teaching of rigorous academic skills; their motto being “work hard, be nice”. KIPP have developed a structured approach to discussing and developing character and have identified 24 character strengths that lead to engaged, meaningful and purposeful lives, which they call the ‘character report card’.

Curriculum According to our survey, the opportunity to set the curriculum is the most important freedom afforded to those in the first wave of approved free school applicants. Some examples of curriculum innovations already in use are the Royal Society of Art’s Open Minds Curriculum which promotes innovative and integrated ways of thinking; and bilingual education which was given a boost in the UK by the approval recently of the first Spanish/English free school application in Brighton.

Briar Lipson is a senior development adviser at CfBT Education Trust. Her report, ‘Myths, evidence and innovation: a guide to making the most of Free School Freedoms’, is available for download from

/ january 2012





Academic proportions John Kyrle High School in Ross-on-Wye is a newly converted academy with full control over its ÂŁ7m annual budget. Julia Dennison speaks to business manager turned director of finance, John Docherty about the financial freedoms academy status brings with it

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case study


ohn Kyrle High School in Ross-on-Wye converted to an academy exactly one year ago. In his 20 years of working as the school’s business manager, now director of finance John Docherty has seen the school through all its transformations. The school has always had an independent bias. In fact, Docherty was first appointed to oversee the school’s move towards greater autonomy under Local Management of Schools (LMS) in the early ‘90s, when schools were first granted control over their own budgets. Independent as they became, it was nonetheless unique for schools to employ someone in the role of business manager at that time. Docherty has the school to thank for giving him the opportunity to step into the career as early as he did. “We had, and still have, a very forward-thinking governing body,” he comments. Before working in schools, Docherty was an MD of a private company, which he sold, leaving him looking for a new career. “I need a job that’s quite diverse and I need daily challenges to keep me interested,” he says. When a friend recommended the school business manager role, it seemed to meet his requirements just fine. He took it and two decades later, he’s still busy as ever. Docherty’s since become a champion for the SBM profession, chairing the local bursars’ association, which he set up only two years ago. “The local authority used to just have meetings, but personally, I wasn’t very happy with those,” Docherty explains of starting the group. “I thought it would be far better for the bursars to have their own association.” It has run very successfully ever since and proved a real asset when the school converted to academy status.

A transformation of academic proportions John Kyrle High School first decided to become an academy after its headteacher, Nigel Griffith, attended a meeting at Downing Street that convinced him of the benefits. “It’s the freedom,” says Docherty of the appeal – that and what can only be seen as a natural progression for the independently minded school. “We’ve always been a school that’s aspired to be at the cutting edge. We plough our own furrow and look for what we want to do for our own future, so we haven’t needed a lot of assistance from the local authority.” In the case of John Kyrle, converting to academy wasn’t “revolutionary or reactionary”. The school still purchases services from the local authority, including a school improvement service, which Docherty says allows its standards to be benchmarked externally. While the high school hasn’t gone so far as to purchase services from private companies, it has recruited staff to work in-house on some services it felt it could do better than the local authority. But for the most part, Docherty is content with what the LA has to offer. “They see they’re in a commercial market and I must say, their services are better than they’ve ever been,” he enthuses. As an academy pathfinder, John Kyrle High School holds a number of conferences on site to help other schools converting. Docherty often gets asked about the problems he encountered converting to academy status. To this he says: “It sounds a little bit twee, but we never approach anything from a problem basis.” For him, problems “are just a list of tasks that you have to meet by a certain date” – to which he says: “just get on with them.” Things on the academy task-list includes things like changes to the VAT (“at one point it was a grant and now we’re claiming from HMRC,” he explains), however, for the most part, in Docherty’s experience, the YPLA has let him get on with things. “They’ve taken as much bureaucracy away from us as they possibly could,” he says. Docherty’s advice to other schools converting is: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. “Some schools have looked at [having] their own pay and conditions, but we haven’t needed to do that. We’re a successful school, we’ve got very good, experienced staff who produce really good results every year, so we need to look after them, as in any other business,” Docherty explains. “We ought to reward our employees rather than do anything else.”

A lot of the skills that maybe I hadn’t been using in a school, that I previously used in a company, I’m using now to great advantage to the school and myself. It’s coming home double glazing in the lower school, and installing an eco-friendlier boiler system, which will save money in the long-run. “In a time where money is short, through applying for capital grants ourselves, we’ve achieved a greater level of capital expenditure than we’ve ever had,” he adds. Even searching for funds can be done in a frugal way. With this in mind, Docherty avoids wasting time raising money. “We find that fund-raising, certainly in the economic climate we’re in now, isn’t really cost-effective for the amount of money you can actually receive,” he explains. “Whereas if we’re going for a grant, we’d be looking at a minimum of £50,000 – and they’re worth putting the work in to get them.” He tends to find these grants online or through a paid-for grant service, which will help with the details like what level of grant a charity is likely to issue and how often. “It’s no use putting a grant application in a month after they’ve allocated their annual grants,” he comments, “and it’s no good asking for £20,000 if they only ever give £1,000.” Additional income comes from leasing out the school’s Astroturf pitch, tennis courts and running an adult community learning centre accommodating 300 learners each week.

Building on success

Business manager to director of finance

One benefit of becoming an academy, for Docherty, has been having more control over John Kyrle’s premises. “We’ve been able to access grants directly from the YPLA,” he explains. At the moment, this has funded a large refurbishment programme that the school is managing in-house. While the local authority owns the land, they’re now acting as arms-length landlords within a 125-year lease. “We’re seeing all the benefits and debt attached to the premises, so we act as owners of it,” explains Docherty. “In fact, it even sits on our balance sheet.” Various refurb projects include a new sports hall roof, energy-efficient

Since becoming an academy and, in Docherty’s words, “being in control of our own destiny”, his role of business manager has evolved into a director of finance, which reminds him of his time as a company MD. “It’s coming home,” he says. “A lot of the skills that maybe I hadn’t been using in a school, that I previously used in a company, I’m using now to great advantage to the school and myself.” Luckily, running a business comes naturally to Docherty. “Whether running a company or an educational organisation, establishment is exactly the same,” he adds.

/ january 2012





case study

At a time where money is short, through applying for capital grants ourselves, we’ve achieved a greater level of capital expenditure than we’ve ever had

Despite new tasks on hand, Docherty has avoided hiring more staff to support him in his new role, instead reforming his administrative team to redistribute some of these duties. For the most part, it’s himself and just two other people (one of whom is part-time). Further help comes in the shape of other schools. The academy is in a consortium of five secondaries, which all use the same management information system, insurance company and auditors, and has been invaluable as a system of support for Docherty. “It’s worked out really well,” he says. “It’s amazing the economies of scale that you can get to [working with other schools].”

Organising budgets John Kyrle High School’s annual budget is £7.5m, a substantial sum of money for one business manager to oversee. Docherty stays on top of it by using an academy-customised MIS to break it down into 150 mini-budgets used throughout the school. He uses monthly reports to track changes to these budgets as early as possible before they can become a problem (or item on the task list, to use Docherty’s philosophy). With a software package created exclusively for academies, the information is presented like a company’s account, and for Docherty, this is much better. Docherty doesn’t have to deal with too much overspend across these mini-budgets, thanks in part to his take-no-prisoners approach: “I’ve got a little bit of a reputation in the school – a good one I hope. In the nicest possible way, they’ll say: ‘Grumpy will come and see you if you’ve overspent!’ I’ve had the opportunity to work with most of these people for a long time, and if there’s potential to overspend, they’ll come and see me.” He refuses, however, to stand in the way of education. “I’m a service provider and if somebody puts a case to me, even after we’ve done all the budget planning, if they could really do with it, and we could possibly supply it, then we do,” he says.

Technology college in action When John Kyrle High School became a technology college, its goal was to have interactive whiteboards in every classroom and ICT available to all. It’s maintained a focus on technology and still heralds its presence as essential to teaching and learning, investing in it significantly since becoming an academy in January last year. As a result, it now boasts 750 computers on site, which is equivalent to about a 2:1 pupil-to-computer ratio (the ratio was 5:1 before the school became an academy). The funding for this investment came from a variety of different sources – some from capital grants, some as independent grants for IT and some saved from the school’s annual budget as a result of prudent spending. Across all these computers, John Kyrle only employs two ICT staff, seconding sixth formers who specialise in IT to work as a part-time job. “Pupils who embark on ICT qualifications within the school are given the opportunity to work with the IT department and are paid for doing it,” explains Docherty. “It’s great for their CV and union applications.”

Future improvements On top of improvements in premises, resources and results, John Kyrle High School has also managed to increase attendance by two per cent since converting. This fell under a service level agreement that the school decided not to take out with the local authority, instead opting to employ its own attendance officer on a five-day-a-week basis (the LA had previously provided someone for two days a week). The attendance officer’s days are spent looking at the registers and using attendance monitoring software to keep track of the pupils throughout the five periods in a day – chasing and cajoling those who don’t show up to any lesson. “The relentless pursuit of attendance is what’s done it,” explains Docherty. “That and more monitoring ability. Where we used to take the registers twice a day, we now take them electronically in every single lesson.” Plans for the school’s future include the development of an on-site leisure centre, which is in the planning stages at the moment and estimated to cost between £4.5m and £6m. The centre will include a swimming pool, gymnasium, squash courts and a multi-gym, and it will also be accessible to the local community. “We’re a real community school,” comments Docherty. “Not only are you doing something really nice and worthwhile within the community, but it’s really good for marketing as well.” All these developments help to explain why this successful school is oversubscribed, with an expanding sixth form, and is even considering building an extension to accommodate more students. This increase in numbers has absorbed the pain of any budget cuts and helped to put this successful academy very much on the map.

january 2012



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leasing equipment

Lease smart Despite numerous horror stories in the news concerning the dangers and complications of leasing IT equipment; it remains the only option available for the majority of schools that cannot afford to buy their technology supplies outright. Jonathan Hills looks in the pitfalls, benefits and complications that can arise when leasing technology supplies


easing IT equipment is something that divides opinion. On the one hand it allows schools to avoid large-scale capital purchases, provides a source of ongoing support for their technical equipment and ensures the affordability of technology that would ordinarily remain outside the budget. However, there is also a danger for schools to become lumbered with long-term contracts that do not suit their needs and can result in the school paying more money than they would have done if they had purchased equipment outright. With funding to the education sector tumbling, Stuart Hughes of Investec Education believes that leasing is fast becoming the sensible option for schools wishing to procure IT equipment. “Budgets have continued to tighten, it is now harder than ever for schools to pay for equipment,” he says. “Leasing is the perfect way for schools to meet the demand for new equipment now, rather than only if, or when, the budget allows.” Leasing is especially useful for schools with smaller budgets and lower financial flexibility as many have no choice but to lease their IT equipment due to tight budget restraints – whereas

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larger schools can maintain equipment with technical support staff, smaller schools must rely on outside expertise if this equipment fails, a cost significantly reduced through acquiring technical support alongside your leasing contract.

Care and caution Leasing can pose significant financial issues if not undertaken with caution and research, schools can end up rushing into a contract without knowing exactly what they are getting into and how much it is going to cost them in the long-term. “It is more about making the right choices on the types of equipment to lease or buy outright,” says Debra Whitaker, schools procurement partner, Warwickshire County Council. “It is necessary to fully understand and make comparisons between the cost to buy outright, the actual cost of leasing over the term of the lease, the likely life of the equipment, and the relationship between the finance

Leasing is the perfect way for schools to meet the demand for new equipment now, rather than only if or when the budget allows

Equipment Leasing that’s top of its class Flexible enough to assist in funding all equipment purchases Enabling your school to benefit from: • • • • • •

A lease which allows schools to spread the cost of equipment Competitive lease rates Flexible payment terms - typically 3-5 years A straightforward & compliant line of funding Simple documentation Favourable options for continued equipment use

Investec Education – Operating Lease for Schools As school budgets continue to tighten, the outright purchase of essential equipment has become even more difficult; schools will now have to consider alternative methods of payment and operational leasing has become increasingly popular with many Local Authority funded schools. Under guidelines set out by the DfE the method by which your school is funded determines the type of funding or lease you school should always sign up to. Local Authority funded schools, and Academies funded via the YPLA, are not permitted to borrow on grant monies received; the only third party lease available to schools funded this way is an Operating Lease. Other establishments such as universities, Independent Schools and those specialising in further education, do however enjoy a greater flexibility when it comes to funding. Investec Education has been providing finance and Operating Lease solutions to schools for over 20 years. As one of the few providers of all types of funding to the UK education sector, we ensure that schools are able to arrange the finance they require for almost any type of equipment from IT, Technology and Furniture to sports equipment and vehicles. Come and visit Investec at the BETT show - Stand K70 At Investec, we aim to ensure that all schools have access to the funding they require to provide continued development of the learning environment. In financing any future equipment purchasing plans, schools can be confident that they are not only maximising available budgets but that they are also entering into a lease that is recognised and deemed appropriate by all current purchasing bodies. To understand more about operating leases and how it could assist your school’s purchasing plans in 2012, please visit us on stand K70 at the BETT Show, 11th to 14th January 2012 at Olympia, London; we would be happy to arrange a meeting in advance. Alternatively, you can contact the Education Team today on 01244 525406, visit us online at or email us direct at

National Association of School Business Management

Education Leasing


Investec Specialist Bank is a brand name of Investec Bank plc, whose registered address is 2 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7QP. Investec Bank plc is registered in England and Wales, registered number 00489604.




leasing equipment

The equipment lease shouldn’t include service and maintenance; a school should always sign a separate contract company and the supplier in terms of guarantees should the equipment fail or the supplier go out of business.” Schools need to be prepared to do a great deal of research and planning before they jump into a leasing deal, something more difficult as hours and budgets are becoming stretched. “Leasing can be either loved or loathed by schools, some schools have had bad experiences and have let rogue suppliers or funders influence what they have signed,” says Hughes. To avoid paying a hugely expensive contract for something that your school has no use for and to ensure that you have real and continual support for the equipment after signing, read the contract carefully and work out the precise costs involved. “Terms and conditions and other ‘small print’ items can include tie-ins and obligations that the school may not be aware of,” says Whitaker, who has been trying to raise awareness for schools to take precautions before they lease equipment. If you are leasing a photocopier, for example, make sure that you know how much each individual copy will cost, the price of consumables and who shall be paying for them as well as the amount that your school will be paying per quarter for the copy machine. One of the easiest pitfalls when leasing equipment is to sign up for a long lease that includes maintenance but provides none – by signing a separate maintenance lease over a shorter length of time, schools can avoid being lumbered with poor service for years. “The lease for equipment shouldn’t include the service and maintenance of the equipment,” says Hughes. “A school should always sign a separate contract outside of the lease.” This gives schools the flexibility to change their provider if they are not satisfied with the support service they receive.

Know your stuff One thing to be aware of is the type of leasing contract you take out. According to the Department for Education all state schools, whether maintained or academy schools, are not permitted to take out financial leases, only operating leases. As school leaders do not generally have the expert knowledge to distinguish the two, many schools end up taking out financial leases instead as policing of the matter by the local authority is reasonably low. “Finance companies were falling over themselves to lease to schools a few years ago,” says Hughes. “Schools did not generally recognise the difference between an operative lease and finance lease.” If in doubt, schools should research or seek

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expert opinion on lease contracts before signing. Schools should also be wary of leasing equipment that they do not require on the back of persuasive sales-talk and familiarity of the salesperson, but they should always benchmark the value of leasing contracts before signing. Whitaker warns against schools becoming complacent with suppliers that have leased to the school before. “They then tend to secure a contract for, say, three years via a leasing company, but revisit two years into the contract with an offer of ‘improved’ replacement equipment or additional equipment,” warns Whitaker. “Because the original contract hasn’t ended and thus triggered the quotations process, school staff often agree to these deals which continue on the same cycle for many years and can result in rolling outstanding balances into new leases, sales agents inflating the capital values of equipment or refinancing existing equipment,” she says. “School staff, therefore really need to recognise that these are all salespeople and their priority is their own interests, not the school, so school staff should exercise good procurement principles all the time.” As the flexibility of funding and staff hours become progressively scarce, the temptation to sign what looks like a quick and easy lease deal can be great. Schools need to ensure that they know exactly what they are singing and the precise details of the lease, including equipment ownership at the end of the lease as well as the end price they will eventually be paying. However, leasing still offers a solution to many schools that would not otherwise be able to provide their students or staff with adequate educational equipment, and, in the current economic climate is something that school managers will be turning to more and more for their IT solutions. Planning and researching your lease contract is imperative however, otherwise your school could end up making a huge loss of both time and money, and who knows, could even make the news.

leasing advice  An operating lease is the only form of finance a maintained school can utilise outside of local authority funding.  Procure products from specialist equipment suppliers and finance from specialist operating lease providers, supplier offered finance will rarely be compliant or best value.  Always know the length of lease entered and always know what the continued use costs or rentals will be should you want to continue to use the equipment after the primary lease has ended.  Know the return conditions, at the end of the lease the school will need to return the equipment and could be responsible for penalties. With thanks to Stuart Hughes from Investec





Buyer beware As independent contracting authorities, academies will have to be savvy about their procurement decisions. Lawyer David Hansom shares his legal advice


he pace of change in the education system is rapid. The old, ‘top down’ approach, led by local authorities providing (and procuring) schools’ requirements, is quickly shifting to institutions independent of centralised control. Traditionally, the majority of contracts for supplies, services or works for schools would have been centrally procured by their local authority’s in-house buying team. Under the new regime, academies will generally be ‘contracting authorities’ for the purposes of the EU public procurement regime. This means making your own buying decisions, whether your institution is a sponsored/convertor academy, a free school or university technical college.

Opportunities and risks If public procurement is new to your institution it can be difficult to know where to start. Local authority purchasers are familiar with the myriad of legislation, guidance and best practice in the procurement world, which can be daunting to the uninitiated. There are pitfalls, too, in getting it wrong – there are strong legal remedies for dissatisfied bidders who want to question (or even force the courts to cancel) your procurement decision. Even existing contracts that you may have inherited from previous arrangements can lead to procurement issues. One advantage of the centralised model in procurement is that generally, but not always, bigger purchases achieve bigger economies of scale. Put another way, a supply contract for 100 photocopiers should result in a lower cost per unit than a contract for 10 machines. If every academy buys for itself, it is harder to be sure of value for money being secured. Expertise in procurement can also be concentrated in one or two academies, leaving some academies with lack of expertise in purchasing. As a result, a number of pathfinder schools have begun to cooperate in their procurement activity.

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Following a similar model to local government, real efficiencies can be created by sharing services and expertise, and clubbing together to run procurements reduces duplication, cost and delay. There are different models that can be used. Any academy can act as a ‘central purchasing body’ (CPB) for other academies, where one organisation volunteers to run procurement processes and makes the purchase on behalf of a wider list of institutions. It is important that the academies able to use the CPB are clearly identified to reduce risk of a contract being outside the scope of the procurement and therefore vulnerable to legal challenge. Alternatively, a new corporate vehicle could be set up which is owned and managed by the constituent academies. This body could then act as the purchasing hub for all of its named members (and/or as a CPB for other named institutions). The mechanism for procurement in practice can be designed to fit specific needs – for example, will each academy simply instruct the company to procure requirements on its behalf on an ad hoc basis, or will the company set up framework arrangements that will appoint service providers and then allow the academies to call off under these arrangements? In each case what matters from a legal perspective is that the academy is entitled to undertake wider activities both through its articles and under education and charity law and that that the new company is correctly incorporated and is permitted to undertake the procurement function.

Under the new regime, academies will generally be ‘contracting authorities’ for the purposes of the EU public procurement regime

David Hansom is a partner and head of public sector at law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards



Foreign talent

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The increased interest in recruiting qualified and experienced teachers from overseas paired with recent visa changes have left the issue of recruiting abroad for UK schools an exciting but daunting prospect. Jonathan Hills takes a look at how to recruit foreign teachers, where to look, and how to negotiate


ecruiting foreign teachers can be a long and complicated process that takes dedication, investigation and support – however, if your school is prepared to put effort into finding the very best foreign talent to teach your pupils, the rewards can be significant and surprising. The first hurdle to overcome when recruiting foreign teachers is the negotiation of UK visa laws. These can prove to be a significant hindrance to teachers from certain countries, particularly for those outside the EU and the Commonwealth and as a consequence many school leaders choose to restrict recruitment to these regions. Barrister Satinder Gill of law firm SA Law, offers his advice concerning the difficulties of negotiating visa regulations. “There is a clear distinction in the recruitment of foreign teachers who are citizens of countries in ‘the EU-zone’, technically, the European Economic Area and Switzerland, and those who are citizens of countries outside of the EU-zone,” he says. Visas for foreign teachers outside are limited in time.” Though it may be simpler and easier for schools to recruit from within the EU alone, Gill also warns school leaders to “take care that employers who restrict recruitment in this way comply with equal opportunities law”. Gill also advises “keeping up to date with the continued changes in immigration policy and practice”, as changes to immigration law are never too far from the government’s agenda. A recent notable change to immigration law has been the closure of the post-Study Work (PSW) aspect of the points-based visa system on 1 April. Gill says this was a “highly effective” two-year visa that allowed foreign students to make the transition into the UK market and then to settle here long-term. With this closure, schools have found it harder to recruit foreign candidates with a strong understanding of English.

Think of English A candidate’s potential to integrate themselves successfully into the school curriculum and their ability to establish a positive relationship with parents, students and staff is heavily reliant upon their spoken English. A solid grasp of English from the get-go aids teaching and helps to instil discipline and respect from students, parents and fellow staff members. Scott Kelly, candidate development manager at Randstad Education, believes that speaking

English is a necessary criteria for prospective foreign candidates. “There must be a good level of English for any member of staff to be considered for a teaching or learning support role,” he says, recalling examples of “strong non-UK-accented teachers” who have been better experienced but overlooked due to their accents over other, non-accented candidates. The level of spoken English required will fluctuate depending on the teacher’s subject. Modern foreign language (MFL) teachers may not need the same level of English as a chemistry or history teacher, but the various non-academic rolls that teachers are expected to perform in the UK still require a considerable minimum standard. This being said, Margaret Howell, chairman of Classroom Limited reminds us that “fundamentally the core decision [to recruit a foreign teacher] should surround the teacher’s capability to deliver their chosen subject matter in a compelling manner.” Therefore, school leaders should bear in mind that there will always be potential for improvement, especially if the teacher had limited exposure to English in the past. Fundamentally, a candidate’s linguistic competency should not eclipse their ability to teach.

There must be a good level of English for any member of staff to be considered for a teaching or learning support role Offering support Similar to a candidate’s capacity to communicate, are the high levels of professionalism and curricular specifications within the UK that should be outlined to them at an early stage. However, school leaders should also be aware that many foreign teachers will also expect guidance and support from their school in return for relocating themselves to teach at your school. Schools should prepare to offer the teacher support throughout the recruitment process and beyond by incorporating the teacher as much as possible into the social dimension of the school. “Beyond the benefits of the particular school, overseas teachers are most concerned about the security and support for their forthcoming role,”

says Howell. “Guidance with accommodation, setting up bank accounts and consideration for the social side of their move are all important.”

The recruitment process As always, the best means of recruitment is via networking and utilising contacts you already know and trust. Visiting a fair is the next best thing. When visiting a school fair, keep an open mind, suggests Kelly. “Nothing different strategically is needed when recruiting a foreign teacher to a British teacher when selecting the best talent for your school,” he says. The teacher should be introduced to his or her working environment before they make the decision to join. Using a device such as an iPad to show videos of the school can help familiarise the candidate to their working environment as much as possible to help make their choice. “Consider using pupils to talk about what makes them proud to be in their school/ community… Pupils talking about what they think they would gain from an overseas teacher would surely help to sell the benefits of applying for this job,” suggests Kelly. Furthermore, if you have any pre-existing foreign teachers working at you school, especially if they are from the same area/country as a potential candidate, ask them to comment on their experience of joining the school to offer a candidate a unique insight.

Ensuring top class recruitment If you expect to obtain the highest quality foreign teachers for your school, then prepare to put a good deal of effort into doing so. Attending career fairs, using overseas universities, job sites, and social media are all good ways of vetting high-quality foreign teachers, but the safest and most effective method of ensuring a quality candidate is by establishing direct connections with the teacher themselves. Kelly believes that recruitment should be conducted “direct from source in person” and that school leaders should always try to be the one to interview the prospective candidate, ideally face-to-face. Obviously this may not always possible if your school lacks the funds or time to fly senior management out to another country. Using a recruitment or consultancy firm can be a sensible compromise, but always ensure that you meet the candidate in some form before hiring them. In this instance, a virtual media interview via the internet is the best contingency plan. Using Skype or other online streaming video software facilitates a certain degree of intimacy and a clearer profile of the candidate’s experience and skills without the expense or the inconvenience of travelling abroad.

/ january 2012


work / life

Break Time ?

Secret life of a business manager

running ahead

My passions are marathon running and triathlons. I competed in many triathlons in my younger days and still run for pleasure at least three times a week. I try and fit in at least one marathon each year, though this year I did the Great North Run, which is a half marathon. I follow many triathletes, runners and cyclists on Twitter, interestingly, many of these are headteachers, teachers, governors or school business managers. My secret life compliments my working life. I need to have good time management and multi-tasking skills to enable me to seamlessly switch from one task to another. To remain fulfilled, I have to fit in my role

number crunching Everyone deserves five minutes break, and business managers are no exception. So pour yourself a coffee, get a biscuit from the tin and have a go at this little puzzle. It is sure to keep your little grey cells ticking over and help while away your break time.

1 8 9 7 9 6 3 4 6 2 9 1 2 4 1 1 7 2 5 6 9 4 1 3 5 7 6 2 8 3 2 9 2 1 5 8

as cluster school business manager supporting four schools with my three weekly runs and four weekly bike rides. I manage this by cycling to school and running in the evening.

Around the classeS

Shirley Gascoyne, Nottinghamshire With all those classes going on around you every day, we think you should be well placed to answer these little teasers

HISTORY After which famous person in history was the teddy bear named?

Do you have an interesting hobby or activity? Are you involved with any clubs at your school? We would

SCIENCE LSD is a synthetic derivative of which type of naturally occurring growth?

PE What country’s team is the only one to play in every World Cup tournament?

GEOGRAPHY What country has the tallest waterfall?

love to hear from you. Write to with the subject line “secret life” and 200 words on your hobby, why you enjoy it and why you would recommend it to other business managers. If you have a photo of yourself, that would be even better. Every entry featured wins a £20 M&S voucher, so why not share your secret life with us?

january 2012


MUSIC What is the direct translation of ‘a cappella’?

ENGLISH What book starts with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”?

ANSWERS History – Theodore Roosevelt; Science – Fungus; Music – In a chapel or church; PE – Brazil; Geography – Venezuela; English – Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities


January EdExec  
January EdExec  

January EdExec edition