JUNE 2011 / ISSUE 70
EDUCATION EXECUTIVE JUNE 2011 / ISSUE 70
EDUCATION EXECUTIVE supporting business and financial excellence in schools and colleges
PRIMARY CLUSTERS ACADEMIES JAMES REVIEW
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS A cluster of primaries benefits from an SBM grant
A CAPITAL PLAN WWW.EDEXEC.CO.UK
Academies as multimillion pound fixed assets bases
Does no frills mean no thrills in school buildings?
National Support Staff Awards 2011 The nomination process for 2011 closes in the coming days and all entries must be received by the 17th June 2011. These nationally acclaimed awards aim to raise the profile of support staff in schools, whilst also celebrating and acknowledging the difference that positive, proactive support staff can make to the learning, teaching, development and growth of schools. With budgets tight and pay freezes in place this is a fantastic way to recognise the contributions that an individual or team are making to the school. Has your school Catering team set up a best value school meal system to help children eat well for less? Or do you have an Eco Team at school that have helped developed a sensory play area that provides natural habitat for wildlife? If you do then now is the time to nominate them. For further information or if you have any questions then please email firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively visit the NASBM website Please visit our website to download the nomination pack: www.nasbm.co.uk and click on National Awards.
NASBM Regional Conference Tuesday 5th July 2011, Cambridge
The conference will provide delegates with insights into the changes and challenges for schools following the Comprehensive Spending Review. Keynote speakers providing advice and guidance on: School Funding - Christine Dickson, Managing Director, Centre for Education & Finance Management. Reviewing Your School Catering Service– Balancing Efficiency with Quality – Jon Rayment, School Food Trust. Delegates can choose to attend workshops on current “hot topics” including: Converting to Academy Status Assuring Best Value in Facilities Management Cost Effective Fire Safety Compliance Improving Team Performance The conference will provide the opportunity to meet with colleagues and learn from their recent experiences. The full programme and workshop choices are available to view/download from the NASBM website – www.nasbm.co.uk
Date & Venue:
Tuesday 5th July 2011 The Cambridge Belfry
NASBM Member Non-member
Full conference package: Day Delegate package Access to 10 relevant Exhibitors Lunch and Coffee
Online - www.nasbm.co.uk Click on Conferences/regional Phone – 01788 573300 Email – email@example.com
For more details contact: Julia Warmington
Education Executive is the first business management magazine written exclusively for school business managers and bursars, bringing you the latest issues affecting your role on a monthly basis, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org DEPUTY EDITOR matthew jane email@example.com PUBLISHER vicki baloch firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNT MANAGER george petrou email@example.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE francis maitland firstname.lastname@example.org DIGITAL MANAGER dan price email@example.com DESIGNER elma aquino firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGNER sarah chivers email@example.com PRODUCTION ASSISTANT sinead coffey firstname.lastname@example.org CIRCULATIONS MANAGER natalia johnston email@example.com
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s I write this we are in the midst of preparing Independent Squared, our annual update on the independent schools sector due out with our September issue of EdExec, and I’ve had to stop and think. The deﬁnition of ‘independent school’ is well and truly changing: no longer does it solely refer to fee-paying private schools, but to academies and now free schools too. Private schools are having to work that much harder to justify their beneﬁts to a UK public that now has the option of sending their children to independent schools that are free to attend. While many of you school business managers in the state system struggle with restrictive budgets, spare a thought for your colleagues in the independent sector who not only have to perform the whole raft of duties that come with the role, but, like other private businesses lately, spend more and more of their time chasing invoices. No wonder so many of them are turning to debt collection agencies to do it for them. A reporter from Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly current aﬀairs magazine, contacted me about this very subject – UK private schools hitting diﬃcult ﬁnancial times. I was quick to point out it was a global issue, as I know many private schools in the US, where I’m from, are also struggling. Furthermore, the UK private school is a worldrenowned brand in its own right. Many need only mention their name and pupils will be ﬂocking from all corners of the earth to attend and pay their fees. However, there is one thing unique about the UK system: fee-paying private schools now have an ‘out’ from fee chasing in the shape of a free school application. This is certainly not an option many are taking – there were only six applying for free school status this September last time I checked – however, it will be interesting to revisit the issue a year from now after the ﬁrst round of free schools are up and running. In short, I can’t help but notice it’s an interesting time for independent schools – one that means you don’t have to charge fees to march to the beat of your own drum.
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the lowdown on the business management world
how to make your budget go further
06 SECTOR NEWS
28 CASE STUDY
The latest business management news for school leaders
08 NEWS ANALYSIS
James Review Does no frills mean no thrills in school buildings?
Pat Crawford, Hadlow College The specialist agricultural college engages with the community
Q3 report How Q3 Academy in Birmingham found transitioning
schools in focus
what’s happening at primary or secondary school near you PRIMARY UPDATE
18 Primary news and views 20 INTERVIEW
Party of thrive A cluster of primaries benefits from a National College SBM grant
24 Secondary news and views 26 Grand designs
Designing a more cost-effective further education timetable
Turn to the back for June’s edition of ICT Matters
Here comes the sun St. Andrew’s C.E. Primary School cashes in on solar panels
A school’s dinner How to use your un-ring-fenced school dinner grant
32 CASE STUDY
Stronger together Town End & Bexhill Schools benefit from working in a federation
Fixing the costs Academies as multimillion pound fixed assets bases
tune up your management skills
The negotiation file Become better at negotiating contracts
A guide to redundancy How to handle those difficult decisions
It’s break time Put your feet up and take your break right here
sector Sector news is brought to you by Free banking for schools supported by local specialist relationship managers Lloyds TSB Commercial - well educated banking
FUNDING WATCH FUNDING FORMULA DEBATE School leaders welcomed a government consultation on a new funding formula launched in April that could see the £35bn spent on schools every year distributed more fairly. As it stands, the school funding system is based on calculations more than six years old and creates large variations in how much money similar schools in different parts of the country receive. Under this new system schools in similar circumstances with similar intakes of pupils would receive similar levels of funding. Additional funding would be provided to support deprived pupils, with the pupil premium being the first step. A new formula would also aim to be clear and easy for parents, schools and the public to understand and support a diverse range of school provision, including academies and free schools. The Association of School and College Leaders has long asked for a reform of the funding system, arguing that one that allows for a variation of up to £1,000 per pupil between similar secondary schools should not be allowed to continue. “A continuation of the current ‘spend plus’ methodology would actually increase the level of unfairness in school funding, making this review absolutely essential,” general secretary Brian Lightman commented. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, agreed, saying a new formula should allow school leaders to plan over the long term and that there was a need to think carefully about how small schools would be protected.
DIARY 15-17 June 2011 Seizing Success 2011: The National College’s Annual Leadership Conference Birmingham 16 June 2011 NASBM’s Converting to an Academy Greater Manchester 21 June 2011 Kent County Council Schools Trade Exhibition Maidstone 27 June – 1 July Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week Nationwide
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
STORY OF THE MONTH SCHOOL LEADERS FACE REDUCED BUDGETS Over half (51%) of school leaders have reported a reduced school budget for 2011, according to a survey by school leadership service provider The Key. There was a marked difference between the primary and secondary sectors, with only 17% of secondary leaders reporting an increased budget, compared with 40% in primary and 38% in special schools. Of those schools facing reduced budgets, 47% of respondents admitted they were considering reducing staff numbers as a way to offset the loss, while even more were looking at reducing building maintenance and ICT provision. School leaders said that the pupil premium would not create any large financial gains as this was offset by the loss of other income streams, such as the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant. The impact of reduced local authority (LA) services will be felt across the majority of schools, with 88% of those surveyed stating that support services have been reduced. Of those respondents, over half (60%) plan to compensate by asking school staff to take on tasks previously handled by the LA. Another cultural shift was that 30% are planning to increase the use of private sector companies to fill the gap in provision, which will have an impact on administrative staff in schools. Some respondents said the changes in their situation would lead to increased collaboration between schools in their locality, and that they would share resources previously provided by the LA. Worryingly, only 28% of school leaders surveyed said they were confident about commissioning services for their schools, 46% had some experience but would like more, while 26% have no experience. The National Association of Head Teachers has predicted that 12,000 jobs will be lost this year as a result of budget cuts. “Job losses are clearly on the horizon,” confirmed general secretary Russell Hobby. “We fear that worse is yet to come, as inflation erodes constricted budgets.”
STATS& FACTS Applications to open free schools in September 2012 opened last month. For the first time, the Department for Education will consider applications from people who want to set up 16-19 free schools, schools that cater specifically for children with special educational needs, and schools that offer alternative provision (for example pupil referral units).
323 PROPOSALS RECEIVED IN THE FIRST ROUND OF FREE SCHOOL APPLICATIONS
PROPOSALS APPROVED TO MOVE TO THE BUSINESS CASE STAGE OR BEYOND
INBRIEF PRIVATE SCHOOLS
A growing number of private educational establishments are turning to debt collection agencies to help collect fees in arrears. One leading debt collection agency, Daniels Silverman, has seen a 35% increase in schools and colleges signing up to its service in the last 12 months. The firm’s director, Tracy Burgess, blames the dip in fees paid on increased economic uncertainty putting pressure on household finances, causing parents to fall “quickly and unexpectedly” into financial difficulties. “Schools are left with terms’ worth of unpaid fees and are struggling to manage their own financial planning as a result,” she said, which can put the institutions’ futures at risk.
Alex Linklater, aged six, enjoys some reading time at Tesco Kensington. Schools across the UK can now use Tesco for Schools & Clubs vouchers collected this year towards a range of best-selling children’s books.
What we learned this month
Academy applications have reached new heights. A record-breaking 1,070 schools have applied to be an academy since June 2010, 647 of which have been accepted and 384 have already converted, bringing the total number of academies open to 658, including the ones opened under Labour.
They said... While unqualified teachers earning £21,000 per year or less will get a small pay increase, school support staff are hit with a pay freeze…Secretaries, meals staff, cleaners and caretakers are the lowest paid school staff and deserve to be treated better Jon Richards, Unison’s senior national officer for education, responding to the government’s u-turn on a £250 pay increase for school support staff
As the Department for Education reviews the national curriculum, suggestions for reform come from the British Heart Foundation, which wants to see all students taught emergency life support (ELS) skills, and the Food for Life Partnership, which says learning how to cook should be required of all children over the age of five. Director of the Food for Life Partnership, Libby Grundy, advised that children be taught the practical skills of food growing and that the DfE should ensure every school has the space to create a food-growing garden. “If practical cooking lessons are to be increased across Key Stages 1 to 3, it is essential that appropriate teacher professional development is put in place, as well as any additional capital funding necessary for facilities and equipment for food teaching,” she commented.
Supply teachers are more in demand as restricted school budgets put pressure on the prospect of permanent staff. A study from Giant Group shows that just eight per cent of supply teachers now spend 90 days or more without work, compared with 13% surveyed last year. MD Matthew Brown commented: “As pressure on education budgets continue to intensify, schools are keeping a very close eye on their budgets. With staffing costs under scrutiny it may be more cost-effective for schools to respond to sudden spikes in workload by making greater use of contingency staff.” Despite budget cuts, schools are still under immense pressure to raise standards. “Some schools rely on teaching assistants to cover for staff absences, but supply teachers are fully qualified and often very experienced teachers who can bring significant benefits to the classroom,” Brown added.
www.lloydstsb.com/schoolsbanking | 0800 681 6078 www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
sector james review
A no-frills approach The James Review suggests a ‘flat pack’ approach to school building but will this provide a sensible response during a period of austerity or put a damper on the joy of learning? Lawyer Peter Hill offers his advice
n July 2010, Education Secretary, Michael Gove asked Sebastian James, group operations director of Dixons Retail, to lead an independent review of capital spend on education. This was against the background of the incoming coalition government’s scaling back of Labour’s huge and much-criticised Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, and other concerns about the effectiveness of education capital spending. The review panel was asked to look at the allocation and distribution of capital funds, in the hopes of removing unnecessary burdens and at achieving value for money on capital investment in the shape of a review. Poorly-defined goals for the purpose of education capital expenditure and lack of an ‘expert client’ within central government are identified by the James Review as being at the heart of weaknesses in the existing system for government education capital spending. Project delivery to meet the greatest need is hampered by the misdirection of funds based on criteria that do not correspond to the drivers of need, and the impact of spending is not maximised due to a multiplicity of funding streams supporting a variety of initiatives with different funding criteria. Put more frankly, a mishmash of conflicting agendas with not much measurement of outcomes does not amount to much of a system. The review concludes that reforms could achieve savings of up to 30% in delivery of future projects, and better buildings through application of project-byproject experience. Most importantly, spending decisions need to be focused on ministerial priorities, objectively justifiable and with criteria applied consistently. The basis of these should be to provide school places where they are needed and to ensure that all schools are properly maintained. The DfE education capital budget for 2010/2011 amounted to some £7.6bn, which comprised: n strategic programmes at £3.1bn (including BSF’s £1.4bn in cutbacks
announced in summer 2010) – allocated according to programme-specific criteria n devolved programmes at £2.5bn – allocated by formula linked to
pupil numbers n targeted programmes at £2bn – allocated according to specific initiatives.
James criticises the allocation methods as being inconsistent and inefficient, thus lacking justification and failing to achieve maximum impact.
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
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sector james review
Other issues highlighted include: n Failure to achieve either consistently high quality of design or consistently low cost in BSF, and project delivery was too slow. Wide variations of outcome for any particular spend â€“ sometimes leaving needs unmet, with little accountability n Significant variation in the standards of maintenance across the schools estate, a lack of reliable condition data, and no proper system of optimising the lifecycle cost efficiency of school buildings n Planning requirements which, despite the obvious necessity of schools, do not favour building them n Regulatory requirements and guidance which are excessively complex and confusing, and more onerous for state schools than independent schools. The review found no convincing evidence that the quality of the school built environment was a significant factor in educational attainment; this depends on the quality of teaching and school leadership. Nor did the review find that the bespoke design approach in BSF projects had produced any real innovation in design.
reCOmmeNDaTiONs The review recommends major changes. First, goals of education capital spending must be identified afresh and methods of allocation redesigned to maximise their attainment; secondly, procurement must be reorganised to realise economies of scale; thirdly, stakeholdersâ€™ roles (the DfE, local authorities and other responsible bodies such as the dioceses and academies) need to be recast. A new goal for all education capital spending should be agreed: the provision of attractive, fit-for-purpose facilities of good durability (avoiding bespoke design and unnecessarily costly fittings), and the entire estate to be kept maintained in fit-for-purpose condition. To achieve this, James proposes setting overall priorities nationally but allocating funding through a notional budget for each local authority area (or possibly for groups of local authorities) with Local Investment Plans (LIPs) drawn up fairly between responsible bodies to identify the local priorities. Making an LIP would be subject to an appeal procedure. The DfE would have a light-touch approval process for LIPs. Implementation of proposals contained in LIPs would be through a centralised procurement system led by the DfE as an expert client, allowing similar projects to be batched together, yielding benefits of economies of scale. Under this system the DfE, in addition to its strategic policy role, would be responsible for project delivery, not just funding. James also proposes a new legal duty on responsible bodies for maintaining the school estate.
Slimmed down organisations should be able to deliver more school buildings for less money, more quickly, albeit in a much more standardised form
COmmeNTarY Many will see this new approach to education capital allocation as good common sense, thrifty and business-like. Reducing the number of funding streams and rationalising the allocation criteria will increase transparency in decision-making and will ease tracking of results flowing from those decisions. Better tracking will give greater accountability. Simplifying funding allocation should reduce the DfE workload, thus reducing its running costs. Much time, effort and cost within responsible bodies will also be saved by removing the need to bid for multiple funding streams. Slimmed down organisations should be able to deliver more school buildings for less money, more quickly than under BSF, albeit with buildings in a much more standardised form. Offsetting its reduced workload, the DfE would have a new role as lead in the procurement process and expert client in individual project delivery. James envisages just a few national procurement frameworks with the DfE as commissioner client, contrasting with over 200 existing local frameworks. In taking on responsibility for project delivery, the DfE needs a change of culture and must ramp up its expertise in this area, or perhaps hand over the role. Will Partnerships for Schools step up for this? James is about getting the basics right: decent school buildings and building maintenance for all, obtaining better value on a no-frills basis. Few tears will be shed over dispensing with the arcane complexities of the old system; and fewer still over dismantling the remains of a social engineering agenda with a doubtful educational basis.
Peter Hill is an associate director at TPP Law
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
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sector public relations
Doing it for the kids hadlow college public relations officer, Pat Crawford explains how the Kent school actively engages with a local pre-school
adlow College, near Tonbridge in Kent, is not just concerned with ensuring its current intake of students are provided with the knowledge and skills required to meet the needs of today’s employment market. When an opportunity arose to get involved with Hadlow Community Pre-School, the college enthusiastically took it up. A calendar of visits to different faculties at the college was arranged and is on-going. Each visit is aimed at giving the youngsters an enjoyable time and chance to learn about a wide variety of subjects. Hadlow, being a land-based college, is able to offer excellent ‘hands-on’ experiences. Visits to date include the Hadlow College farm shop, equine department, floristry department, dairy farm and to see the lambs. Hadlow runs a large commercial farm shop and the visit offered children the fun of identifying a range of fruits and vegetables and sampling regionally-produced juice. Hadlow manages ‘Produced in Kent’, the organisation tasked with promoting county-produced food and drink. Hadlow’s renowned equine department has 65 horses and a Shetland pony, which is used as a companion for young stock. The pre-school children spent a morning meeting and grooming the patient pony before being taken to look at some of the bigger horses in their stables. They had a further experience with animals when meeting new-born calves on the college’s dairy farm. Under manager Mike Deakins, the herd now enjoys pedigree status and has won prestigious prizes at leading shows. Over 750 lambs are born each year at Hadlow and the annual lambing weekend in March is a popular event that attracts nearly 10,000 visitors. The pre-school children enjoyed watching the lambs frisking and playing in the field. Back indoors, the most recent visit by the children has been to Hadlow’s multi-award winning floristry department. It was still a ‘hands-on’ experience as the children created little floral arrangements to take home to their parents. Further visits are planned for the summer including one to the college’s state-of-the-art animal management unit, where they will see some exotic creatures before watching students at work in the dog grooming salon.
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
The different facilities at the college provide endless variety for the children, stimulating their senses and encouraging learning The college is involving local businesses too, with a visit to the village hairdresser’s shop arranged for later this month. Making use of all the different facilities at the college provides endless variety for the children, stimulating their senses and encouraging learning in an informal setting. The visits will also ensure that this particular group of youngsters will grow up understanding more about their environment and where their food comes from before starting full-time education.
Hadlow is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and is one of the UK’s leading land-based colleges. A third of its income is derived from commercial activities including the farm shop, Broadview garden centre and awardwinning tearoom.
EdExec Loves This month’s favourite products and giveaways
New services for safe and affordable premises
PORTAKABIN awarded ISO 14001 FOR eco efforts
Award-winning education supplier, The Consortium has launched a new range of services to help schools provide safe and affordable premises. The Consortium Services have been developed in response to the increasing legislative and financial pressures school leadership teams are facing, including complex statutory compliance, health and safety and legal responsibilities, as well as rising food and energy costs. By partnering with leading telecoms, utilities, food and property management providers, The Consortium provides tailored solutions to manage these issues. The services include support with statutory compliance and health and safety as well as bespoke premises development planning and project management. As many schools now have the opportunity to source services themselves for the first time, The Consortium believes they will benefit from going to one known and trusted supplier rather than managing an increased number of new suppliers. Sales and marketing director Simon Leggett explained: “We are offering more choice for schools so they can focus on their educational priorities and not spend unnecessary time managing their supply chain.”
Portakabin, the UK’s leading modular building specialist, has been re-accredited with ISO 14001 – the internationally-recognised standard for reducing impact on the environment. Certification was achieved following a rigorous independent assessment of the company’s environmental policy, compliance with legislation, control systems, procedures, and targets for improving environmental performance. Mike Williams, general manager of Portakabin Hire, said: “Environmental impact is an increasingly important global issue and it is essential that all organisations, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors, are committed to minimising the impact of their activities on the environment... “For our customers, this means that the environmental impact of the buildings they hire from us is significantly reduced.” As a business, Portakabin is working to continually improve sustainability. Initiatives include reducing waste in the manufacturing process; increasing the recyclability of waste by employing intelligent production methods; the use of products with low embodied energy, and the manufacture of buildings that are thermally efficient. www.portanews.co.uk
For more information about The Consortium Services, call 0845 806 1000 or visit www.theconsortium.co.uk
Education Carpets on a Roll NEW GUIDE TO EXPANDING TEACHING ACCOMMODATION Education carpet specialist, Heckmondwike FB has launched an updated version of its Carpets for Education website, 15 months after its creation. The website carries ranges like Supacord, Broadrib, Montage, Momentum, Wellington Velour and Iron Duke, which have specialist antistatic, anti-slip, acoustic and thermal properties that make them ideal for the education sector. The new website boasts interactive features, such as the Interactive Product Selector, which help heads, bursars, facilities managers and caretakers visualise different floor coverings in different settings so they can select the right floor covering for their needs, whether it’s for a university lecture theatre or nursery reading area. For an even more visual approach, the Interactive Designer Tool has four room settings – classroom, meeting area, library and reception – and can create up to 80,000 colour combinations with the Supacord and Broadrib ranges. Marketing manager Abby Chandler commented: “The Carpets for Education site started life as a microsite, which allowed us to test the water for the education sector. It has proved so successful as a separate entity that we’ve decided to reinvest in the site, making it more interactive and easier.” www.carpetsforeducation.co.uk
Foremans Relocatable Building Systems, the UK’s largest supplier of recycled and refurbished modular buildings, has published a new guide to expanding teaching accommodation. The latest in a series of technical papers from Foremans, this report, titled A guide to expanding teaching accommodation, provides education professionals with comprehensive advice on procuring a modular building, with 23 practical tips on how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls and ensure modular building projects are completed on time, on budget and to the required quality standards. The paper contains clear guidance about using off-site construction, quickly and efficiently, for the smooth running of each building project. Other areas covered include, key decisions to take in the planning stages to ensure clarity and focus for the project team; advice on obtaining planning permissions; the complexities of project management; how to ensure the modular building meets the relevant guidelines and legislation; how to set the design criteria; and what to look for in a modular building supplier. MD Kevin Jones commented: “This report shares our team’s experience and expertise to help education professionals avoid...the most common pitfalls.” To download a copy, visit www. foremansbuildings.info/industryreports.
Built on success The Q3 Academy has enjoyed a successful first year in its stunning new building. Matthew Jane met the executive team to find out about the dramatic events that led to the creation of the academy and how their teamwork has led to the success of the project
pproaching down the 193m long walkway that leads to the main entrance of the Q3 Academy is like travelling towards a palatial manor, with the extensive grounds surrounding the impressive building at its heart, all backed theatrically by the West Midland skyline. The academy shines like a beacon of achievement and opportunity for the area and is a demonstration of what can be achieved through dedication and teamwork. The executive team that were responsible for the academy conversion and subsequent building of the impressive learning facilities are suitably proud of their achievements. Sitting in the office of principal and chief executive Caroline Badyal, which overlooks a naturally lit and spacious atrium, the full scale of their accomplishments can be appreciated. “The whole idea for developing a new building came about following a major fire we suffered several years ago, caused by contractors who were refurbishing the exterior of the old building,” she explains. “We lost a third of the building and were subsequently pushed to the top of the list for the BSF programme.” The construction was not undertaken through BSF however, as the school, which was Dartmouth High School at the time, was presented with the opportunity to convert to an academy, meaning the project was funded directly. “The idea for the academy came about when our current sponsor visited the site and described it as ‘to die for’,” recalls Badyal. “He came to the site in 2005 and saw the potential and subsequently asked the government if he could sponsor an academy here.” While the academy was formed during the time of the previous Labour government, which used the scheme as a way to turn around the fortunes of failing schools, Dartmouth High School did not fall under this bracket, a point that vice principal Fuzel Choudhury is keen to stress. “We were a rapidly improving school, whose performance
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
above | q3 academy executive team and members of the junior executive team (jets)
was enhanced through the academy conversion,” he explains. “The academy process has really supported us in what we are doing, but I believe we could have still made those steps without that process as well. I think that was something the sponsors could see, they realised the improvements we were making and saw their investment would enhance this.” The conversion to the Q3 Academy, which was finalised in 2008, gave the school an opportunity to rebrand itself over to the unusual name, which derives from the Latin word quaerere, meaning ‘to seek’. The school motto is: ‘To seek for that which is good, right and true’. “Our name is our values,” explains Choudhury, “it is absolutely intrinsically linked in everything that we stand for.” It was not just the name that changed, but the school uniform too. “We call it their ‘business dress’, not a uniform,” explains Badyal. “The students all wear pinstripe suits that they actually designed themselves. We try to take a business approach to the way that we run the academy and the way we conduct ourselves and the students really embrace that. It gives them a real sense of what is out there and helps raise their expectations.”
BUILDING THE DREAM The opportunity to move into a custom-built learning environment was an attractive option for the school leaders. Badyal describes it as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and one that they took great lengths to ensure they got right. “We feel that because we were engaged with it from the start that we have been able to develop a building that is genuinely fit for purpose,” she says. Senior executive for finance Gary Hargreaves was brought in to oversee the building project. “I came in December 2007, but the panning had
fact box SCHOOL Q3 Academy TYPE 11-19, specialising in design and enterprise PUPILS 1021 support staff 56 teaching staff 76 budget £6m Name Caroline Badyal POSITION Principal and chief executive Name Fuzel Choudhury POSITION Senior executive and vice principal Name Gary Hargreaves POSITION Senior executive and finance director
We were a rapidly improving school, whose performance was enhanced through the academy conversion www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
started in 2005,” he says. “I joined the academy at the start of the building phase.” “There was a bit of a hiatus between February and August 2008 while the tender process was undertaken for the main building, then the contractors came on site and we finally moved in on time in April last year, so we have been in the building for a full year now,” explains Hargreaves The extensive building work took place on the site of the old school and for over two years they had to serve the school dinners out of Portakabins. “We had to lose the sports hall and swimming pool as well,” adds Hargreaves. “I thought it would be a health and safety nightmare because at times we were no more than around 20 feet from the old building, but we managed very well. The close proximity meant that we could work very closely with the construction team.” This close working relationship also helped with managing the costs, and the building was actually delivered on time, on specification, and under budget.
the transition from the old school to the new academy building. “We involved the students a lot during the process,” adds Badyal. “We held workshops with the architects and they had colour workshops with the pupils. Some of the ideas that they suggested were adopted into the building, so it is very much their academy. They asked for lockers and a cyber cafe, both of which they now have.” It was not only the students that were heavily consulted and involved, but also the staff. “We had the plans put up in the staff room to allow the staff to scribble over and make notes on,” says Choudhury. “We even had a dummy classroom created to allow them to test out possible chairs and desks.” Hargreaves says that one of the biggest battles they faced during the process was to do with their desire to have wide corridors throughout the building. “There was a formula within the government for the amount of money permitted per
Buildings don’t make successful academies, good teaching does – and teaching and learning is absolutely critical to what goes on here
Choudhury explains that having a building site on their doorstep proved a great learning resource. “We had viewing panels placed in the patician wall,” he says. “When it came closer to moving into the building, all the students had a tour so that they were familiar with all the features.” Not only was this a useful learning tool, but it also helped smooth
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
square foot, but the wide corridors were integral to the design as it reduces the pinch points and gives people space to move around,” he explains. “This has had a massive impact and makes such a difference.”
INNOVATIVE RESOURCE Having such an inspiring building has meant the community was quick to engage with it, and the academy is already heavily over-subscribed. Hargreaves says there has also been interest from the community in using the facilities. “We are currently developing a community programme,” he says. “There have been a couple of small events here and we have had a few football coaches use the site, as well as a local cricket club. We have put our stall out and there has been a lot of interest.” While Hargreaves admits that it would be easy to take up all the interest from the various community groups, it is important that the interests of the students come first. “Before we can make any decision on community use we have to be sure that it wouldn’t jeopardise the pupils’ use [of the facilities],” he says. “We needed to have a full 12 months’ run to get a [true] feel for the building. We have had that now, so we can start thinking about
making a commitment to the community. The last thing we would want is to hire out a sports field to the community and then have it unplayable for the students – it is imperative they come first. We know we could have the pitches filled every night, but we have just got to get the administration right first.” As well as amazing external and sporting facilities, there is also scope for the community to utilise some of the innovative technology in place at the academy. “We are very ICT rich,” says Hargreaves. “We have got a Mac suite, flexible learning centres with several laptop trolleys, freestanding computer terminals and wireless throughout. We have even got a 3D projector in the lecture theatre, so it is all professionally equipped.” The facilities Q3 Academy are blessed with are just the tip of the iceberg that is the school’s success, which all the members of the executive team are quick to stress could not have been achieved without a dedicated and hard working team. “Buildings don’t make successful academies, good teaching does, and teaching and learning is absolutely critical to what goes on here,” says Hargreaves. “The environment is a help and a support, but you need more than that, and the hard work and quality of staff we have here certainly delivers that.”
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
schools in focus newcastle
What’s going on in the world of primary school and nursery management
Books to under-fives (what a way to get ‘em reading) Children under five across the UK get their families reading with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library The reading habits of entire families are improving across Britain thanks to free books received through Dolly Parton’s UK Imagination Library, one of the world’s largest free book gifting programmes. Through the Imagination Library, children receive a free age-appropriate book, delivered directly to their home each month, from the time they are born until they reach the age of five. A survey of 500 families showed that time spent reading by everyone in the family had increased since their children became part of the scheme, with grandparents, fathers and mothers and elder brothers and sisters all getting the reading bug. The research revealed that since their children joined the library, parents had not only increased the time they spend reading to their children, with four out of five saying they now read to their children at least four or five times a week, but that half are now reading more books themselves. According to the survey, the most popular books with the children are interactive or lift the flap books (73%), followed by books about animals (72%), and touch and feel books (69%). The most popular themes include nursery rhymes (57%), fairy tales (43%) and books about trucks and cars (37%). Commenting on the survey, Parton said: “From grandmas and grandpas to brothers and sisters, it is great to see that everyone is playing their part to help kids develop a love of reading from the earliest age possible.”
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
Primary school pupils say nature makes them happy Flowers, rainbows and enjoying the sunshine are the things that really make children happy, according to new findings. More than a third of primary school and special educational needs children say that nature and the natural world make them happy, with less than one per cent claiming that money is the key to their happiness. Being with friends and family puts a smile on the faces of 21% of children, with sport, going on holiday and playing with toys also featuring in the top five. The figures reveal the views of 3,858 children who drew what makes them happy to enter a nationwide Happy Art Competition. Although the data indicates that children across the UK share similar values when it comes to qualifying happiness, a higher percentage of Scottish nippers claim that sport (22%), rather than nature, puts them in high spirits. Denise Cole, director of LapSafe Products, which ran the competition, thinks the findings are relevant for educational professionals. She said: “At a time when education budgets are becoming increasingly tightened, it is good news that primary and SEN schools do not need to spend lots of cash to improve pupil wellbeing.”
What we learned
The findings coincide with the announcement that 10-year old Verity Walker from St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Romford (pictured), is the winner of the nationwide Happy Art Competition for her detailed drawing of a diverse and happy planet Earth, uniting different nationalities and abilities.
Only half of all primary school children walk to school. Last month the UK celebrated National Walk to School Week in a bid to get children to swap getting driven to school with walking in response to rising obesity, pollution and congestion levels. It was estimated that one million children participated.
schools in focus Primary news
Radlett pupils pedal ahead Newberries Primary School Radlett
Cycling to school is fun, affordable, environmentally-friendly and even known to improve children’s performance in lesson time – and now pupils at Newberries Primary School in Radlett have even more reason to get on their bikes. Thanks to the installation of a brand new cycle shelter, pupils of Newberries Primary can enjoy the
many benefits of cycling to school, knowing that their bikes and scooters will be kept safe and dry throughout the day. “There is a real benefit of cycling to health and the environment – and it helps to reduce the traffic around the school,” said headteacher Ness Peters. “We have been working hard with Herts Highways to make getting to school easier and safer for our children with improved road markings, flashing school signs and extended double yellow lines on the corners near school.” With a donation of £5,500 from UK cycling charity Sustrans, combined with £2,000 from the school PTA fund, a total of 10 bikes can now be housed in the school’s cycle shelter, made by Able Canopies “In last year’s travel survey, 52% of our pupils said they would prefer to bike to school,” said Peters. “We ask all children who come by bike to sign the school’s cycling agreement, which asks them to promise to wear a helmet and carry out ‘bikeability’ training.”
Green-fingered pupils spruce up outdoor space Newcastle Church High
Junior pupils from leading independent school, Newcastle Church High, have been busily mucking in to create an innovative new outdoor space in the school grounds, just in time for the summer months.
This April marked the launch of Church High’s eco project and saw pupils, parents, grandparents and staff all working together to renovate the unused space at the back of the school into a garden, complete with a vegetable patch, herb garden and an assortment of flowers. Partly funded by other recycling initiatives within the school and led by the eco council, with representatives from each year group, the project centres on the creation of an outdoor classroom. This will provide a relaxing space to teach the students of Church High the importance of growing their own produce and taking responsibility for the environment in their communities. Eleven year old Skye Logan from Westerhope, who heads up the eco council, said: “We came up with a variety of ideas including having a sensory area, water feature and mural for the walls. Recycling is such an important part of life at Church High and we’re all keen to help tackle green issues. Everyone is very excited to get the space ready so that in the summer it can be used as an outdoor classroom.”
SEND IN YOUR STORIES Members of Church High’s eco council planting in the garden area
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Win a weather station Think you might have the next Michael Fish in your school? To celebrate its 19th year in primary schools, Nivea Sun is launching a competition that will see 15 prizewinning schools win their very own weather station. Three of the lucky winners will even have their prizes presented by celebrity weather forecaster Sian Lloyd. To enter, pupils need to design their own weather symbol and write a short weather forecast for their area or the UK using it. Plus the school leaders who submit the winning entries will each win a goody bag worth £50. To enter, visit thesunwiseset.co.uk/ competition.
40% sTATs & FACTS
of primary schools fail to appoint a new headteacher on their first attempt, according to the NAHT
news INBRIEF Bursar arrested for fraud
A school business manager and her husband have been arrested for the alleged theft of £120,000 from Temple Mill Primary School in Strood, south east England. Sandra Ross and her husband Peter were arrested last month in connection with a fraud investigation at the school and have been released on bail pending further inquiries, the Medway Messenger reports. Ross had been a bursar at the school for six years and has not been working at the school since her arrest. According to the newspaper, school staff were asked by Medway Council to sign gagging orders preventing them from talking to the press.
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
schools in focus Primary case study
Cluster for life Sharing a business manager across a cluster of schools has allowed smaller lower schools in the Harlington Area School Trust to benefit from these skills. Matthew Jane spoke to project leader Moira Boyle and business manager Catherine Bianco to find out how
or small primary schools, accessing the skills and knowledge of trained business managers is often viewed as an unaffordable luxury. But one project taking place across a cluster of schools in Bedfordshire is pioneering an approach that enables all the lower schools within the network to benefit from a business manager to work across a range of bespoke projects. The project, which is being run across the Harlington Area Schools Trust, a pyramid of 13 lower, middle and upper schools, involves a business manager being allocated to all the lower schools in the group that want help with certain projects or developments. The scheme first came about when Moira Boyle, the business manager at Harlington Upper School who is overseeing the project, saw it advertised on the National College website. “They were inviting schools to express an interest to be a suitable site for a demonstration project looking at widening or sharing business management across varying types of schools or settings,” she explains. “We weren’t successful at the first attempt because there was already a similar project in the area, but they kept us on the waiting list and shortly afterwards, they got in touch to say that some more funding had come available and ask if we still would like to take part.” There had already been some initial preparatory work that took place before the National College offered to launch the project across the schools, through which Boyle looked at other projects across the country. “There were some schools that used their own staff and spread them around the schools involved,” she says. “We decided that the lower schools in our pyramid would be the ones that
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could get most benefit from it as they were not as advanced with school business management as the upper schools or the two middle schools.” Having consulted with the headteachers at the lower schools, it was decided that the project should go ahead. They recruited Catherine Bianco, who was already working at one of the lower schools from the pyramid, to work with the other schools to deliver the programme. She divides her time between the Toddington St George Lower School where she works and on the other tasks of the project. “I work 25 hours a week,” Bianco explains, “I do 15 hours at Toddington then allocate 10 hours to the project. I can be a little flexible with how that goes though because obviously it doesn’t always work out that we can do certain things on set days. I am just managing my time and noting down the hours so I ensure that I am dividing it up appropriately.” She has now been in the new post for a whole term, as the project went live at the start of the year.
VARIED WORK Having the opportunity to work with other schools, which vary from lower schools with over 100 children to very small schools with less than 50, has given Bianco an
I have found it good to go in and speak to the other schools about what their issues are and help them out
schools in focus primary case study
Project update There are currently around 200 partnerships in operation through the National College scheme, representing every government region, with 1,200 primary schools involved in the partnerships. There has been considerable demand for participation in the scheme and, while the original funding has been allocated, the National College is exploring ways to secure additional funding. www.nationalcollege.org.uk
www.edexec.co.uk month 2011
schools in focus Primary case study
insight into the different projects and ways of delivering things. “I have found it really interesting,” she says. “I have found it good to go in and speak to the other schools about what their issues are and being able to help them out.” Conveying to the headteachers how Bianco’s skills would benefit their schools initially proved difficult. “People are seeing the benefits now though,” she suggests. “I think in those schools the head is doing everything. In some cases it is getting them to let go of that bit and letting someone else do that. I have had to explain how it allows them to focus on their core tasks and guide the school from a teaching and learning perspective.” The range of projects that have come up through the scheme has been very varied, something that interested Bianco and Boyle. “The LA has made some major changes in the way our schools operate,” says Boyle. “The way the systems run has changed and instead of the LA organising funding, this duty has been given to the schools to take charge of themselves. This has been a major area that Catherine has been able to help them with.” “I would say that around seven of the local schools, out the 13 schools in our pyramid, were affected by the change away from a centrally funded system,” adds Bianco. “I was able to do a presentation for the headteachers to explain what these changes meant and then followed that up by running a workshop for those who would actually be doing the work. We are now at the end of our first month of that, so I am preparing for phone calls and queries as people get used to this new system.” The other major queries that headteachers have been asking for advice on is with contracts for HR, ICT or payroll. “I was able to get some quotes from companies centrally and then report back to the other schools and recommend certain companies to them,” Bianco says, adding that the LA appears to be moving away from centrally providing services, so there may even be greater scope in the future for developing the purchasing power of the cluster. One of the projects for one of the lower schools was to investigate the feasibility of its nursery. “They have a nursery, but the funding formula changed, so the headteacher asked me to look into whether it would still be financially viable to run it,” says Bianco. “I worked out all the costings and fortunately it worked out that they could continue running it.”
FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS As well as the National College funded project, the Harlington Area Schools Trust has other avenues for developing school business management. “We run regular business management networking meetings within our pyramid,” says Boyle. “We try to run these at least once a term with a variety of issues being discussed, such as the academies programme and purchasing advice.” She is keen to stress that they are business management meetings, so they are open to headteachers, administration staff and not just managers. “In the early days, one of the administrators from a very small school came along and I think she wasn’t sure about what it would involve, but I think she now finds the meetings absolutely invaluable,” says Boyle. “It has taken a couple of years to get a representative of all schools to attend the meetings, but I think this project has helped give the headteachers an insight into what they can gain from business management.” The funding for the project has been allocated until the summer term next year, but the aim is to make it financially viable to continue with the work into the future. “Part of Catherine’s project will be to either find a
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
below | Moira Boyle, business manager at Harlington Upper School who is overseeing the SBM project
mechanism to get it refunded or to generate income to pay her salary or discuss with the lower schools how they will see it going forward,” says Boyle. “The hope is that by then they will find it such a valuable resource that we will find a way to continue working in this way.” Fortunately, the headteacher at Bianco’s school is very supportive of the work and has continually supported her to advance her career. “My role has grown and the head has always supported me by giving me more responsibility,” she says. “I did the CSBM last year and will be starting the DSBM this month. I am hoping some of the work I do in this project will be able to form part of that qualification.” Having a shared business manager resource has given the small, rural schools of the Harlington cluster the opportunity to gain valuable insight and expertise. The project, although still in its infancy, is progressing well and there seems to be plenty of demand for the skills of business managers such as Boyle and Bianco.
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schools in focus secondary news
secondary update What’s going on in the world of secondary schools and further education
Local authorities join forces to improve health in schools Milton Keynes is the first local authority to join Schools4Life – a new locally-focused government initiative to improve health and wellbeing in schools. Building on the Department of Health’s Healthy Schools Programme, Schools4Life is a nationally-shared and locally-led co-operative that supports schools to raise young people’s aspirations, drive healthy behaviour change and improve learning. All schools in the UK are being invited to be part of the programme – membership is free and it will enable schools to immediately carry on their Healthy Schools’ work. Twenty-one schools from Milton Keynes were the first to join Schools4Life in its first month, supporting each other to tackle local health and wellbeing priorities. Michelle Smith, improvement adviser for personal development and wellbeing in Milton Keynes, said: “It makes sense for our schools to be part of Schools4Life and we’re really pleased to join a national network where we can focus on reducing health inequalities, share experiences and draw on specialist behaviour change expertise.” Schools4Life has also worked in partnership on a similar programme known as Healthy Schools Plus in the south west. Across the region, targeted support for schools has enabled local health and education partnerships to achieve measurable improvements around some of the region’s most pressing health and wellbeing issues. Backed by current government thinking, but free from a centralised, costly, top-down infrastructure, schools work in partnership with Schools4Life – a social enterprise created by The Exchange Foundation that has been seed-funded by ICE Creates, a specialist health and social change agency that has helped deliver the communications elements of Healthy Schools for the last six years.
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
solihull milton keynes
Further education institutions devastated by budget cuts True impact of FE cuts felt as 96% of colleges and sixth forms suffer crippling budget cuts resulting in inevitable redundancies
An overwhelming majority (96%) of colleges have been told that their budgets will be cut in 2011/12 and of these more than nine out of 10 said the cuts would have a negative impact on the teaching and learning in their colleges, a joint survey by the National Union of Teachers and University and College Union has revealed. Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents reported possible teacher redundancies and 76% anticipated support staff redundancies. Respondents identified several threats to educational provision in their colleges, including: n reduction in courses offered (55%) n increases in group size (52%) n reduction in the number of hours per course (40%). This survey highlights the immediate effect of the 75% cuts to enrichment funding with three quarters of respondents saying there will be a reduction in activities such as sports, music, dance and drama.
A further 67% said that tutorial time would be reduced, while 35% said there would be less careers guidance for students. Colleges give a damning verdict on the government’s new proposals for the Education Maintenance Allowance, with not one single respondent answering that the students in their college believed it was adequate. A further 68% believed recruitment to their college would be adversely affected by these cuts to EMA. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “The impact of not only the real terms cuts faced by colleges but also the 75% cut in enrichment and tutorial funding is nothing short of devastating. Teachers in this crucial sector face job losses and increased workload while students will be forced out of education by the two thirds cut in funding for the Education Maintenance Allowance.”
schools in focus secondary news
£10m redevelopment turns college to academy
news INBRIEF Academy strike
City Technology College (CTC) Kingshurst Academy, Solihull
A £10m redevelopment of the City Technology College (CTC) Kingshurst Academy in Solihull is nearing completion and has led to the college reaching academy status. The project began in 2009 with the remodelling of four classrooms into science rooms offering the latest in teaching facilities. This enhanced the college’s capacity and capability to effectively deliver the curriculum, including its specialist core subjects, allowing the college to convert to academy status.
The development also offers a new single story training block, and a four storey teaching building incorporating modern and foreign languages, art and design, a library and general teaching classrooms. Andrew McInnes, technical director of WYG, which provided services for the project, said: “The new build itself is going to add further benefits and enhance teaching and learning opportunities, but the academy status also opens up other advantages to the college. “Having academy status means the college is independent of local government control and has more freedom to make its own decisions concerning the delivery of the curriculum, and the ability to change the length of its terms and college days, among other key areas.” The last few areas of the project being completed include the landscaping, which comprises a new pupil drop-off area doubling as external hard play areas when secured.
Staff at two secondary schools in Coventry have gone on strike over plans to turn their institutions into academies.The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said the strikes at Tile Hill Wood and The Woodlands School were in protest over a consultation to become an academy. A spokesman for the union said the change posed a threat to the terms and conditions of employment. Neil Charlton, headteacher at Woodlands, defended the decision and said there was a significant financial imperative for the conversion. “One of the primary considerations for this school is the financial imperative and because of that I do not intend to withdraw my application under any circumstances. We would find ourselves several hundred thousand pounds better off in a year. That’s the most significant factor in our decision to apply for academy status.” Chairman of the governors at Tile Hill Wood School, Peter Wall, said the consultation had been extensive, while Jane Nellist, joint secretary of the Coventry Association of the NUT, disagreed, saying the consultation had been “virtually non-existent”. While the pay and conditions are the main concern for unions, Education Executive reported in March that any conversion would be unlikely to alter this. The process would be governed by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), which is designed to protect the rights of employees, enabling them to enjoy the same terms and conditions after the transfer as before, with continuity of employment.
sTATs & FACTS
1/3 Senior members of staff, governors and students at Hadlow College welcomed HRH The Duke of Kent on his visit there on 5 May to conduct the official opening of the college’s animal management unit (AMU). (Left to right: Lauren Jordan, Sally Jones, HRH Duke of Kent, Sarah Engley and Zoe Chapman)
of all secondary schools are either an academy or in the process of becoming an academy
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www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
schools in focus lesson redesign
Post-16 shambles With budget cuts hitting post-16 education the hardest, could better timetabling be the answer? Julia Dennison looks at the implications of budget cuts in schools and asks: How far is too far in lesson redesign?
here is no question that further education has been hit hard by budget cuts as a result of the comprehensive spending review. A recent National Union of Teachers/University and College Union survey shows an overwhelming majority of colleges – 96% – have been told that their budgets will be cut in 2011/12, 74% of which say teacher redundancies will be inevitable as a result, which is bound to threaten the quality of student learning. Many colleges and sixth forms will have little choice but to offer less courses, with larger group sizes and a reduced number of hours per course. The unions’ survey highlights the immediate effect of the 75% cuts to enrichment funding with three quarters of respondents saying there will be a reduction in activities such as sports, music, dance and drama. A further 67% said that tutorial time would be reduced, while 35% said there would be less careers guidance for students.
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
“FE colleges are in a very precarious position,” comments Rob Elliott of Capita Further and Higher Education. “On one hand, expectations are rising as colleges are perfectly placed to up-skill young people with the qualifications they need to help boost the economy. On the other hand, they are coping with drastically reduced budgets and ever-tightening resources. The bottom line is colleges that underperform could see their funding pulled altogether.” It’s clear FE schools have a challenge on their hands this year as they work to sustain a high quality of learning under fiscal restrictions. The implications of budget cuts on small sixth forms could be significant. “Running a small sixth form is intrinsically difficult before one considers a drop in funding of the order of 10%,” comments Sam Ellis, funding specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). “The degree to which a school that is already subsidising a small sixth form from the main school budget can continue to do so is called into sharp focus.”
schools in focus lesson REdesign
According to Ellis, reducing the expenditure on post-16 provision implies offering fewer courses, having less teacher-student contact time, sharing provision with other institutions or some combination of these. “There is no general solution here as the different subjects available in school sixth forms do not have the same requirements for delivery,” Ellis continues. For example, where one subject may lend itself to larger groups, others, particularly with a practically-based aspect to them, may not.
What now? Collaborative ways of working, such as shared services or curriculum sharing, may well bring cost savings to post-16 education providers. However, Ellis issues caution as the ability of a group of schools to work together is not as simple as it first sounds. “The key limiting factor is the basic geography of the situation and the transport of students between institutions,” he explains. One approach he recommends is to operate on a half day basis with student travel points occurring at the start, middle and end of each day, factoring in the cost of bussing. At least 60% of a college’s budget is spent on staff, so it makes sense to check they are being utilised effectively. “Ensuring lecturers are actually teaching all their contracted hours is key, particularly in the middle of the year when some courses might have been cancelled or merged,” Elliott says. Colleges should then turn to room utilisation and ask themselves how often lecturers are required to travel from campus A to B and back again and whether there are frequently vacant rooms that could be put to better use. “These might sound like simple steps but auditing companies have reported average savings here of £750,000 – enough to substantially offset some of the budget cuts,” Elliott adds.
A new curriculum Forward-thinking schools will ensure all senior staff involved in finance and curriculum planning understand the important link between a school’s timetable and its cost. While cutting back on teaching time is often the first difficult decision many school leaders will need to make, arguably the most important element to cost saving is working with the curriculum team to ensure the timetable is cost-effective. “The curriculum team…will need to design a curriculum and write a timetable to match a financially defined level of staffing, rather than planning a curriculum and timetable and then working out how to afford it,” Ellis explained in the ASCL membership magazine earlier this year. The idea not only in post-16 provision but also in main school provision of lead lessons given by one teacher to a collection of classes thereby saving on teacher contact time may work, Ellis says, but the overall educational effectiveness will be determined by far more than the financial saving made. “One critical variable in determining the number of teaching staff a school needs to employ is the overall average group size,” explains Ellis. “As funding
The team will need to design a curriculum and write a timetable to match a financially-defined level of staffing, rather than planning a curriculum and timetable and then working out how to afford it
reduces it is almost certain that the average group size in a school will need to increase. This means schools will have to have fewer small groups catering for minority choices or special needs if they cannot balance those groups with increased size for groups above the mean. It is probable that where schools operate large open choice pools of option subjects in both Key Stage 4 and post-16 they will have to move to a more restricted course type structure where the overall average class size is larger.” Playing with the timetable to find the best value solution is something that can be done using the right software. Where timetabling manually used to take weeks, advances in technology mean different models can be explored for their financial viability with the touch of a button. “There are so many course and funding options to consider during the curriculum planning process – student demand, local needs, national initiatives and resource availability being the tip of the iceberg – that doing so effectively without technology would be virtually impossible,” says Elliott. Once data is collected, however, it also needs to be scrutinised continually throughout the year to monitor how resources are being used and ensure a quick reaction to any changes. Any streamlining of lessons at post-16 level should be done with caution and with the best interests of the students at the forefront of any school business manager’s mind. “The key difficulty with cost-effective lesson planning is keeping an eye on the educational effectiveness when the model is being driven by a serious reduction in real terms funding,” agrees Ellis. “It may be that part of the way forward for schools is not only to consider how they can make their current curriculum more cost effective but to think what different curriculum they could move to which will be cost effective within the new financial constraint.”
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
Let the sun shine St. Andrew’s C.E. Primary School in West Sussex has recently installed solar panels with the intention of selling back additional electricity generated to the grid. Julia Dennison finds out more from school business manager Debbie Taylor
hen it comes to budgets, St Andrew’s CofE Primary School in Steyning, West Sussex is lucky. Due to careful long-term strategic planning, the school is not one of the 60% of schools having to make painful cut backs and redundancies because of decreased budgets this year. In fact, when Education Executive met with Debbie Taylor, the business manager at this mixed, 4-11 voluntary controlled primary school, £33,000’s worth of solar photovoltaic panels had just been installed onto its roof. This is an investment that promises to pay for itself by generating electricity for the school’s use, as well as extra during holidays that they can sell back into the National Grid. The fact an investment of this kind can be made is proof this school is in a healthy financial state. “We have been lucky enough to have maintained high pupil numbers over the years,” says Taylor on why the budget is as good as it is. “This has helped us be consistent in maintaining a certain level of income, along with the fact that all stakeholders understand the importance of considering value for money in all areas of school development.”
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
Taylor keeps an eye out for grants and lets out the dance studio, main hall and classrooms for additional funds to put towards the school. The school received an £11,500 grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change last year, which Taylor found out about from a member of the school’s eco team. “We originally went after this grant, but later found out that we might not be able to also sign up to the Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) programme because they were both government-subsidised,” she remembers (see box). The school wanted solar panelling, but did not want to risk participating in the FITs programme, so after careful research into the statistics, they decided to purchase the panels out of the school’s budget. The panels were installed in February and the FIT began a month later. As part of the installation a visual display meter was put into the school’s reception area, which displays what electricity is being generated and how much that reduces the school’s carbon footprint. Although it is early days, a forecast, based on its south coast location where it is likely to get more sunlight, predicts the school will generate 9,124 kilowatts for the grid this year, bringing in a revenue of £3,717. This is looking likely, as in April
box fact box SCHOOL SCHOOL xx St Andrew’s CofE Primary Schoolxx TYPE TYPE LA xx Mixed, voluntary controlled 4-11 Local West Sussex PUPILS authority xx ClusterxxChanctonbury and Storrington Budget Rural Area Schools (Stars) Specialism xx Pupils 420 Support Staff xx Annual budget £1.7m Teaching staff xx Teaching staff 22 Name xx Support staff 54 POSITION xx business manager Debbie Taylor TIME IN ROLE xx TIME IN ROLE 11 years BACKGROUND AND TRAINING xx BACKGROUND Taylor started working at St Andrew’s as a bursar and became school business manager after achieving the CSBM in 2005. Prior to that she worked for an advertising agency and in personnel management. She is also trained in nursery care.
Jargon buster Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) are the electricity part of what some people call Clean Energy Cashback, a scheme that pays people for creating their own ‘green electricity’. The tariffs were introduced by the government to help increase the level of renewable energy in the UK to help meet the legally binding target of sourcing 15% of total energy from renewables by 2020.
alone the school generated £888 thanks to the sunny weather and bank holidays. At this pace, St Andrew’s is well placed to pay off the solar panels’ capital outlay in eight years. The school’s eco team has long been doing its bit for the environment, achieving Bronze and Silver Eco Awards. The pupils are an important part of this eco team and two interrupt the interview to collect shredded paper for recycling. “Any environmental initiative has to be driven by the children,” says Taylor. “The ideas come from them. We have criteria to meet and we ask them to come up with the ideas to be able to achieve that.” As a result, the pupils are designing a wildlife garden for the grounds and pitch in with all kinds of environmental initiatives around St Andrews, including recycling toner cartridges, papers, magazines, plastics and cardboard, producing their own compost, collecting and recycling water and even growing fruit and vegetables. The school is also applying for Green Flag status, which they hope to achieve by the end of the year. “It’s about trying to maintain a sustainable school as much as you possibly can,” says Taylor. “Our philosophy is: ‘Care for the environment and the environment will care for you’.”
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
Taken for granted With the school dinner grant losing its ringfencing, schools can use the money towards other parts of their budget. JULIA DENNISON finds out what implications this will have on schools
OF THE EDUCATION CATERING MARKET IS STILL MANAGED IN-HOUSE OR VIA A CENTRALLY CONTROLLED MEAL SERVICE
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
he foundations of healthy eating in schools were rocked once again as April saw the revocation of the school dinner grant; without its ring-fencing, money once intended to speciﬁcally go towards school meals can be used to cover other budgets in schools. It has meant some local authorities have increased the price of school meals signiﬁcantly. While some schools straining under the decreased budgets and deﬁcits may welcome the opportunity to redistribute the funds, others concerned for the welfare of their children worry rising prices of school meals will put the provision of hot meals in schools at risk. The oﬃcial national statistics on school lunch prices show that the average price for a two-course meal across primary and secondary schools with catering provided by the local authority was £1.88 in 2009/10. However, according to an Observer report, over 30 local authorities plan to increase the cost in coming months, with some schools seeing an increase of as much as 17%, or £2.60 in charges. Somerset is one area that will see the price of school lunches increase to £2.60 and six meals services in the area have closed because they were deemed ﬁnancially unviable. It is therefore feared that more schools could stop providing hot meals. Wendy Green, the council’s transforming school food project manager, told the newspaper she had concerns for rural schools where delivery costs were an added expense.
Schools have seen the beneﬁts of healthier school meals in terms of pupil behaviour, learning and the social aspects of calmer lunchtimes with good quality food and as a result are unlikely to want to change this “These services are going to struggle with the loss of that funding,” she said. “Four years ago we only had hot meals in 30% of primary schools, now we have them in 80%. My concern is that we are going to start dropping back below 80%.” Avid followers of the Jamie Oliver movement of school dinners movement may see the lack of hot meals as a blow to the health and wellbeing of the country’s children, particularly when a recent study in the Journal of Health Economics has shown that those eating healthier lunches as prescribed by the celebrity chef achieve better national curriculum test results and are absent 14% less often. It is also revealed that a child eating healthier food at school will earn between £2,103 and £5,476 more over their lifetime due to improved literacy. However, while the school meal grant will no longer be ring-fenced, the requirement for schools to provide healthy school meals will not change.
“The nutritional standards that school meals must meet will remain and will continue to form part of Ofsted inspections,” reminds Sharon Watters, specialist school dietician at St Aidan’s C of E High School in Harrogate. “Schools have seen the beneﬁts of healthier school meals in terms of pupil behaviour, learning and the social aspects of calmer lunchtimes with good quality food and as a result are unlikely to want to change this.” Research by the School Food Trust reveals that uptake of school meals correlates with price changes and, furthermore, a typical lunch brought in from home isn’t usually as nutritious as the average school lunch, which must meet national school food standards. Packed lunches can also be repetitive. Watters conﬁrms that St Aidan’s will continue to ensure healthy and “exciting” food is available to all pupils to encourage increased uptake of school meals. “Schools that have seen ﬁrst-hand the beneﬁts of positive lunchtime experiences and healthy nutritious food are likely to have similar views,” she adds. Despite reports of increased lunch fees in some areas, the School Food Trust says it is “really encouraged” that many schools have continued to put the same level of investment into their school meals and has welcomed proposals to make it easier for schools to oﬀer price deals such as ‘buy one, get one free’ for larger families. David Weller, MD of education caterer Alliance in Partnership, says he believes local authority caterers will be the ones to suﬀer now that the school dinner grant has been revoked because the money that was used by LA caterers to support the overall cost of providing the service, food and labour in order to retain the direct service is no longer there. “The local authority cost model was operated as a whole service then split and allocated individually to schools,” he explains. “This caused inﬂated prices once central contracts were lost and costs needed to be spread across fewer schools.” Weller has already seen two local authorities remove central contracts and the responsibility devolved directly to schools and believes this trend will increase substantially. As a result, his catering ﬁrm has “never been busier”. The ﬂexibility that comes with the end of school dinner ring-fencing, not to mention the independence aﬀorded to schools converting to academy status, means many schools will be able to make their own decisions about what will beneﬁt their pupils. As a result, Weller has noticed that food provision is more relaxed and schools have more freedom to choose what to include in menus; which he says are “still healthy but more realistic”. “Personally, I think it is a positive step to give the schools more choice,” he adds. “Healthy food is here to stay and we are not going to alter our stance on this. More competition is good for the market place as over 50% of the education catering market is still managed in-house or via a centrally controlled meal service.” A Department for Education spokesperson said they “make no apologies” for giving school leaders complete freedom over their budgets: “They know what’s best for their pupils. The tough nutrition standards remain in place.”
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
Stronger together The Town End and Bexhill academies are an innovative federation and have been able to make various savings by converting to academy status. Matthew Jane spoke to executive headteacher Teresa Laybourne to find out more
s the opportunity for academy conversion continues to provoke discussions throughout senior leadership teams across the country, Town End and Bexhill academies have forged an innovative and successful model for primary education. The two schools in Sunderland were already pushing boundaries when they formed a federation under executive headteacher Teresa Laybourne, but now they have achieved academy status, they are set to benefit even further from the advanced management freedom and autonomy it implies. The initial federation between the two schools came about following difficulties appointing a headteacher, which resulted in Laybourne taking over the Bexhill School on a temporary basis. “It worked out really well, so we continued with it,” she explains. “When the academies situation arose, the Town End School was an outstanding school, so it was able to go for academy status. Because of the federation we asked if both schools could convert – at the time Bexhill was rated as ‘good’.”
At present, the schools form a soft federation, with both having their own identity, but the staff are all employed under the one academy board. “We maintain separate staff at each site,” says Laybourne. “We have got a leadership structure over both schools, with myself as the executive head, and I have an executive associate head over both schools and a deputy at both schools. My time is split between the two sites, depending on the needs.” Following the initial federation, standards at the Bexhill School were soon raised, leading to a restructuring of systems and policies to ensure they were the same at both locations. “We realigned the curriculum and then started sharing expertise in both schools, which is a huge benefit,” says Laybourne. “There were a lot of sensitivity issues to consider, especially around the staff, in order to ensure they could work together and didn’t feel as though they were in competition. Also, parents had to get their heads around the fact that there was one headteacher for both schools.” The process was made even more complicated due to the fact that there was no
We have also got a business manager across the two sites, which is a great help. We would never have been able to achieve that before june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
pictured | Executive headteacher Teresa Laybourne
similar model to base the transition on. “We were two quite large primaries, whereas a lot of the other models at the time were based on small schools,” explains Laybourne. “We have created our own model through this process.”
BENEFITS OF CONVERSION Becoming an academy has given the Town End and Bexhill federation the opportunity to explore various cost saving and other efficiencies that have accompanied the change. “We are starting to notice some cost savings,” says Laybourne. “We have been able to recruit some staff over both schools. Because we now have one headteacher and one associate headteacher, it leaves some funding, so we have been able to get a parent liaison worker across the two schools with the savings. We have also got a business manager across the two sites, which is a great help. We would never have been able to achieve that before.” Having two academies under one umbrella also opens up the opportunity of better procurement value. “You can make quite a lot of savings by treating it as one board instead of two, it allows us to buy in bulk. It is a challenge to get
“One thing is certain – nothing stays the same. So it’s good to have solid specialist support.” Bruce Doy, Business Manager at The Boswells School.
people to recognise that we are one board, but we are getting there,” says Laybourne. Another area where savings can be made is in training provision for staff. Laybourne says this is another area where they can pool resources between the two centres, especially if they hire in a consultant. “I would always rather get a trainer in rather than send one person out on a course as this allows more people to benefit from the information,” she says. “The children across the two schools go on educational visits together as this provides further cost savings.” Staff are also able to share teaching resources via the intranet. The future for the two academies looks strong under the present leadership. Laybourne says they are slowly merging closer together, with a new uniform and badge being introduced across the Bexhill and Town End sites. There is also scope to extend the board to incorporate more schools. “As a multi-academy, any school can come under our board,” she explains. “We are just seeing how that evolves at the moment. While we are not actively encouraging other schools, we are not discouraging it either.”
For Bruce, like anyone else managing a school, change is always on the horizon. So his local Relationship Manager’s in-depth knowledge of the education sector is very important to him. All our school clients benefit from this locally-based expertise, as well as: • Direct access to a local specialist support team • A best value package of services, support and products • Discounts on ParentPay – an innovative service which provides a cashless online payment system for schools and parents.
To see if our service impresses you as much as it has Bruce, visit www.lloydstsb.com/schoolbanking or call us on 0800 681 6078.
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The value of academies Schools are stepping up to the self-governing opportunities of academy status. But how many have considered the challenges associated with managing a multimillion pound fixed assets base? Karen Conneely says academies need to implement effective asset management processes june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
s the applications for academy status continue to rise, schools are coming to terms with the implications of gaining control over pay and conditions, curriculum delivery, even the length of terms and school days. Many, however, have yet to address one of the other fundamental implications of academy status: the management and procurement of assets. The government has laid down clear requirements for asset management and procurement within the Academies Financial Handbook, published by the Department for Education. Yet few schools have yet to address this aspect of the new self-managing model. There is huge confusion about what assets need to be recorded and how it is to be done, as well as the need for regular audits.
The bursar is now facing a massive new role that includes retaining control over a fast changing asset landscape With the total asset value running into millions in many academies, especially the new flagship buildings, with new rooms, furniture, fittings and equipment, this is a core component of successful management. A school represents a particularly tough environment to retain control over assets: equipment is typically located across multiple sites; it is often moved; wear and tear is significant given the continually shifting population – as is the risk of theft – especially for IT equipment, in these open environments. How are these organisations going to account for their assets, track them to ensure they are still within the estate and then dispose of them adequately in line with a raft of legislation from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)?
Managing assets The good news is that academies do not need to record every item in the stationery cupboard. The bad news is that they do need to track more than just the obvious high value items such as buildings and cars. At the most basic level, academies now have to create an asset register that includes any item with a capital value over £500. However, many will also opt to include attractive – that is stealable – items, such as digital cameras and projectors, that fall below this threshold. The result could be an asset register that includes many thousands of assets. To meet the guidelines, academies require an asset register with a description of the asset, its cost, location – such as room number or building; who is responsible for it; its life (time since purchase and expected lifespan); and whether there is any grant funding associated with it. It must also include asset maintenance information, including regular condition statements. However, there are other considerations beyond the creation of a robust asset register. Academies must also consider new procedural requirements. Who will take responsibility for managing this asset register; how can the organisation ensure asset information is kept up to date in order to meet disposal requirements as well as maximise the value of any capital expenditure? The problem for academies is that in the vast majority of schools, the financial function was previously handled by
the local authority; a school has typically had a bursar but no fully fledged finance team. This individual is now facing a massive new role that includes retaining control over a fast changing asset landscape. Furthermore, departments such as IT will have taken an autonomous approach to assets, using their own system to keep track of asset purchase, installation and disposal. Now there is a need to combine information from both finance and IT and to create a central, consolidated asset view that can support these diverse regulatory and business requirements.
Imposing control The first step has to be a site audit to determine the assets already within the organisation, before feeding this information into the asset register. Physical audits can be undertaken using barcode scanning technology, and information directly loaded into the centralised asset register. Once in place, organisations then need to streamline the process of maintaining the asset register and, in an ideal world, department heads will take some responsibility for keeping an eye on asset movement, current state and disposal. A centralised system that managers can log into to update information enables schools to empower local responsibility for asset ownership whilst maintaining control over the asset estate. Using barcoding, any changes to asset status can be rapidly recorded directly onto handheld devices, creating a complete audit trail. With this insight, academies can minimise the compliance overhead, from ensuring the right number of software licences have been purchased to ensuring assets are correctly disposed of to comply with both environmental legislation such as WEEE and financial regulations, including IFRS. For example, academies must have a policy in place for the disposal of assets that ensures best value for the academy; where the secretary of state’s consent is sought and obtained before the disposal of any asset for which a grant of over £20,000 was made, or where land and buildings had been transferred from the LA at no cost to the academy. An up-to-date, centralised asset register also meets disaster recovery requirements, ensuring academies can place accurate, audited insurance claims in the event of fire, theft or other disaster.
Policy spotlight Critically, the creation of a centralised asset register enables academies to control expenditure by monitoring the value of assets and purchasing levels by department, ensuring the school stays within budget and focuses spend on those areas of the school that have a specific need. As establishments in the higher and further education sector have discovered, robust asset management systems and processes can repay investment within a very short space of time, not least through the identification and reallocation of unused or underused equipment to other departments. Indeed, in addition to meeting the government’s fixed asset management requirements, there are significant additional benefits to be attained, including the optimisation of asset value. And this will be key: academies are going to be under the spotlight as pundits look to explore the pros and cons of the government’s education strategy. The ability to demonstrate effective management of expensive educational estates will be an important factor in determining the overall success of this strategy.
Karen Conneely is group commercial manager at Real Asset Management
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
Putting it on the table With the academy system comes the need for school business managers to ask for what they want â€“ not to mention hold down good contract prices. Trainer Alison Morris explains how you can up your negotiation game
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
hatever your personal views about academies and free schools, one thing is for sure – the spotlight is going to be on individual schools and their management more than ever before. While there will be many priorities vying for attention, the even greater focus on budgets and costs coming out of the Department of Education and the responsibility that comes with the autonomy of academy status means getting the best possible deal from providers and suppliers will be very high on the agenda. As a result, many senior school leaders are voicing concerns about the ability of their people – and in some cases themselves – to negotiate in a truly effective manner. There is growing recognition that such skills are now more crucial than ever. For some, the idea of engaging in such commercial activities is a very uncomfortable thought. However, the reality is that, by learning to negotiate in a professional way that creates the confidence to get the very best deal, you maximise the chance to bring major benefits to the people who are depending on you for a successful outcome. There are opportunities at every stage of the negotiation process. Do you know what ‘good’ really looks like during the planning and preparation phases of a negotiation? Or when you reach the negotiating table itself? That’s assuming there is a ‘table’ of course. Even greater challenges can emerge when the other party is intentionally or unintentionally kept at arm’s length, with little chance of contact via face-to-face meetings. Some may see this as a way to create a more transactional process, which, if you are talking about a largely commoditised market, may well be the most efficient and effective method for one or both parties. However, applying similar tactics in more complex decisions rarely results in the best outcome. In addition, any attempt to exploit a perceived imbalance in power between parties is likely to be both short-sighted and flawed. The reality of the win/lose is often lose/lose. There are many reasons for this, but usually it is because the ‘losing’ party is unwilling, or worse unable, to afford to provide the service the ‘customer’ wants, so neither party gets the outcome it truly desires. The buyer or purchaser may have achieved the best price at the point of negotiation, but whether they also secured the best value is much more open to question.
The changing face of purchasing and procurement The role of the procurement or purchasing professional is of course well-established in many parts of education, and many schools will make best use of existing expertise available. Others will see an opportunity or need to bring in new personalities and build capability in new ways, developing the skills of their own key individuals where required. Whoever takes on the role for building agreements with providers or suppliers, it is essential that they are able to apply commercial skills and practices appropriate to the culture and expectations of the school and wider public. Part of this is giving suppliers and providers as early in the process as possible the opportunity and information to really understand the needs of the school. This is essential to ensure
Skilled negotiators are good listeners and ask twice as many questions. They are not ‘poker-faced’, but talk about their feelings, creating a climate of trust
the solution offered is appropriate and provides best value. The more each potential provider understands about the issues facing the key participants in the decision, the stronger and more relevant the proposed solutions should be in meeting the requirement. This is particularly evident in the area of supporting services or ‘added value’. In many cases, the core offering may be very similar – and therefore encourage a focus on price alone. Yet the range of associated services available from an individual provider or supplier may well add exceptional value in meeting the commissioning goals and so tip the balance in favour of which solution to choose. Such an opportunity may be missed if a rigid or remote purchasing process does not enable the provider to highlight such attributes – or if they fail to ‘sell’ them effectively – and the customer remains unaware of their existence.
Face-to-face skills As a result, whether purchaser or provider, the key to successful negotiation is to understand how to plan to achieve a win/win outcome. This can be done by creating an environment in which both parties understand fully what is on offer and the constraints within which they have to operate. How they use that planning, together with their own behavioural skill in the face-to-face meetings, will then dictate the level of success achieved. We have researched the strategy, tactics and behaviours of successful, effective face-to-face negotiators over many years. From this has emerged the ‘Skilled Negotiator Success Model’, which highlights the attitudes, processes and behaviours of the exceptional negotiator. These include: n Strategic objectives: placing greater emphasis on the medium- and long-term, considering the implications of alternatives and taking an ‘in their shoes’ approach to anticipating the other side’s position n Power: a systematic approach to analysing and managing the power balance before and during negotiations n Preparation and planning: exploration of a wide range of possible trades and linkages and, importantly, how they are to be negotiated n Face-to-face skills: a surprisingly consultative style, based on understanding needs, maintaining clarity and building trust, while dealing firmly with aggressive or unreasonable behaviour by the other side. At the same time, our research has explored a number of common myths about what makes a successful negotiator. For example, the conditional ‘if you do this, I’ll do that’ form of trading is only one part of a much more complex set of skills today. Skilled negotiators are good listeners and ask twice as many questions as the average negotiator. And, contrary to popular belief, they are not ‘poker-faced’, but talk much more about their feelings or emotions, encouraging openness and creating a climate of trust. Similarly, skilled negotiators avoid argument dilution. Our culture has taught us to present as many arguments as possible to support our case: this is precisely what average people do in negotiation. The key to success is to use one strong argument. Only if it is undermined should a negotiator introduce a second reason to support their position. Underlying all this, one thing is clear: in this newlyemerging environment in which the relationship between purchaser and provider will continue to evolve, professional negotiating skills will be essential in achieving the desired goals on both sides of the table.
Alison Morris is a director at Huthwaite International
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
Parting ways Dealing with staff restructuring is a difficult issue, but schools increasingly need to know about redundancy processes. Matthew Jane finds out what is involved
find out more
For more information on dealing with staff reductions consult the ASCLâ€™s Managing Staff Reductions booklet, www.businesslink.gov.uk or www.acas.org.uk
THE MEANING OF REDUNDANCY Redundancy is a dismissal that is attributable wholly or mainly to: n the fact that the employer has ceased or intends to cease the business for purposes of which the employee was employed, or has ceased or intends to cease that business in the place the employee was employed or n the requirements of the business for employees to carry outwork of that particular kind in that place have diminished or are expected to diminish or cease. Taken from Section 139 of the Employment Rights Act 1996
t is not a pleasant task, but in the current climate, reducing staff numbers is possibly the only feasible way that schools and colleges will be able to make the large savings that are being imposed on them by the government. It may be possible to claw back some money by better utilising facilities, reducing spending in certain areas and generally tightening the purse strings, but the undeniable truth is that staffing costs will take up the large majority of a school budget, therefore to make any real savings this is unfortunately an option that has to be considered. It is a conundrum that school business managers across the country have been assessing, and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has noted that this is an area where there has been a great deal of interest, with courses on the subject fully subscribed. “[The] ASCL was concerned that it has been so long since mass redundancies were in prospect that the knowledge and skills for dealing with them might have been lost,” says Richard Bird, a legal specialist at the organisation. “The world has changed a great deal since the 1980s when there were last large scale job losses, and what worked then may not work now.” When managing staff reductions, there are certain principles that should form the starting block of any work. Firstly, any actions should be in the best interest of the pupils and while schools should be sympathetic to the staff affected, achieving the best outcomes for students should be the primary concern. It is also key to have good planning in place, with clear identification of the problem and a long-term goal set out, while good levels of consultation and communication are also an important part of ensuring the process is as effective as possible. It could be possible to reduce staff without having to resort to the unpleasant situation of redundancy. In the ASCL booklet, Managing Staffing Reductions, several alternative options are considered, including increasing contact time, especially for managers; replacing teachers performing higher level administrative functions, such as cover coordinators, by less expensive nonteachers; and considering whether posts and activities are absolutely necessary, using Ofsted demands as a possible guideline.
REDUNDANCY ALTERNATIVES The last thing anybody will want is to have a compulsory redundancy, so it is first important to consider all options for voluntary redundancies or early retirement wherever possible. It may be that some staff members will be happy to take voluntary redundancy, with the possibility of considerable payments for those that do. The advantages of voluntary redundancies include the fact that it is less demoralising and disruptive and there is less management work involved in checking the redundancy selection criteria. However, it can prove more expensive to pay for longer serving staff members, and if more people volunteer than required, it could lead to more demoralised staff. While the laws on retirement are changing and as of October you will only be able to have a set retirement age if you can objectively justify it, offering staff incentives to retire before they had planned
could prove a good solution to reducing staff. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) describes early retirement as often being more acceptable than redundancy for employees and trade unions and may be less harmful to employee morale than compulsory redundancy.
THE LAST RESORT If there is no other alternative than imposing compulsory redundancy, then school leaders will need to draw up redundancy selection criteria, which must be objective, non-discriminatory and consistently applied. The criteria should also be known to staff in advance.
The world has changed a great deal since the 1980s when there were the last large-scale job losses; what worked then may not work now Some of the criteria to be considered, as outlined by the BIS, include: n skills, qualifications and aptitude, which can help keep a balanced workforce n standard of work performance, for which you must provide supporting objective evidence, such as proof of staff appraisals n adaptability as it may be important for your school that employees accept different types of work as needs change n attendance or disciplinary record, which must be applied consistently, and be sure your records are accurate and that you understand the reasons for absences. Do not include absences for maternity, paternity or adoption leave. To avoid the possibility of unlawfully discriminating against anyone, you should use more than one criterion. Telling the unfortunate member of staff who is to be made redundant requires a tactful approach and there are certain protocol that should be adhered to. The person should be formally informed in writing and this should include the right to appeal within the agreed timeframe. If the headteacher decides to inform staff personally, a governor will need to be present and the member of staff is permitted to bring a union representative or friend. If the person agrees at this point then the process can go ahead as planned, otherwise it may have to go through an appeals process. While it is obviously a difficult subject for both employer and employee, it may well be unavoidable for the greater good of the school and the pupils. Ensuring redundancy processes are wellconsidered, lawful and well-managed, while not making the process any more unpleasant than it has to be, will at least ensure it is fair and that staff are treated in the best possible way.
www.edexec.co.uk june 2011
Break Time Secret life of a business manager
On the run My secret life is as a cross-country runner. I regularly compete (with varying degrees of success) in regional competitions and find running to be a great way to spend my time, clear my head of all the daily stress and just switch off from everything else. While running can be hard work and you do need a certain level of dedication, I genuinely believe anybody could take part.
number crunching Everyone deserves a five minute 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.
I used to run a cross-country club at school, taking a small group out after school for runs around the local area. The clubs were very well attended and it is something we are hoping to set up again soon. My goal next year is to take part in the
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London marathon. A friend of mine ran this year and came away with a reasonable time of 3.45 hours. There is sure to be some friendly rivalry between us, but that will hopefully spur me on more. My fitness isn’t quite up to a marathon yet, but luckily I have got plenty of time to get some good training in. Dean Allinson, Lancashire
Around the classeS With all those classes going on around you every day, we think you should be well-placed to answer these little teasers
HISTORY Who was the first wife of King Henry VIII?
ART What nationality was the artist Edvard Munch
SCIENCE What has an orbital period of 76 years?
music With which group was Morrissey the lead singer?
Do you have an interesting hobby or activity? We would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘secret life’ and 200 words on your hobby. Every entry featured wins a £20 M&S voucher.
june 2011 www.edexec.co.uk
PE What country did ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar represent?
english In which book did Nemo captain the Nautillus?
ANSWERS History – Catherine of Aragon; Science – Halley’s comet; PE – Zimbabwe; Art – Norwegian; Music – The Smiths; English – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
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Coming up in next monthâ€™s education executive Budget survey
What to do in a strike
We survey readers to find out how they are coping with budget cuts
Top 10 tips for handling a staff walkout
Career guidance meltdown
Head of the board
Are you prepared to source your own career services?
The changing role of the school governor under academies
Profiting from the summer
We find out whatâ€™s stopping primary schools from becoming academies
How to make the most of an empty school
Out in july
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Taking school technology to the next level
JUNE 2011 / ISSUE 10
Shar with e me IT m your anag er
Phoning is in Using pupilsâ€™ mobile phones to your schoolâ€™s advantage
IT against all odds Yes, you can invest
Video star School saves thousands through video conferencing
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ICT NEWS & ANALYSIS MOBILE APPS HELP CHILDREN PERFORM BETTER AT SCHOOL
New study supports the use of mobile apps in education and parents say they help children with their school work
Primary schoolchildren who use educational apps on smartphones and tablets are outperforming their classmates who don’t, according to new research. A study, commissioned by Encyclopaedia Britannica, reveals that two in five parents who download educational apps say their child’s academic performance has improved as a result. Not only are they helping to raise academic attainment, educational apps are also helping children inside the classroom. The vast majority of parents who have downloaded an app say they have helped their child with school work and projects, while more than half of parents with smart devices actively encourage their child to download apps for exam revision, homework and learning about new topics. The report also reveals that families with access to mobile devices are fully engaged with educational apps as learning aids, with the average
smartphone-owning family downloading more than four apps for learning since purchasing their device. The report comes as two thirds of parents with smart devices are calling for more educational apps to be developed, saying they encourage independent learning and that children prefer to use them than other learning aids. Ian Grant, MD of Encyclopaedia Britannica UK, said: “It’s great that families are fully embracing new technologies when it comes to their children’s education and that they’re starting to see tangible benefits to academic attainment, both in and out of the classroom.” Sue Atkins, author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies and a blogger on parenting, said: “In a busy, hectic, stress-filled world of trying to get children interested in learning and being curious about the world, we need to engage them in new ways, and what better way than to download smartphone apps.”
NEWS BYTES EU calls for mobile ban in schools Mobile phones and wireless internet should be restricted in schools as they pose a health risk to children, says a new report from the EU. The draft resolution from the EU’s Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs says the electromagnetic fields, especially radio frequencies from handsets, are “potentially harmful”, particularly to children, who are’ ‘most at risk from head tumours’’. The committee therefore suggested a ban on mobile phones and wifi systems in schools. It
said: “Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.” The report did, however, concede that there is some dispute about the nature of the health effects of mobile phones and teaching unions in the UK have spoken out, saying banning mobile devices in the classroom would cause significant disruption as more than 60% of British primary schools and 89% of secondaries use wifi networks.
free Text donation service launched in uk The UK’s first free-to-use text donation service launched this month, allowing schools to benefit from text message donations for free. Until now, the costs involved in setting up a text donation service have meant that only the largest charities could afford it. Incurring no set up or running costs for charities and no network charges for supporters, JustTextGiving from Vodafone and JustGiving, will allow schools to benefit from the speed and spontaneity of text donations. The majority of UK schools and nurseries are registered charities and can now sign up to JustTextGiving to secure their personalised six-digit text codes. A recent survey of UK parents by Kids Connection found that 91% felt they should be involved in fundraising for their children’s schools and nurseries with sports equipment and school trips being the most popular reasons for parental donations. Galvanising mobile fundraising is seen as critical to kick-starting a new generation of giving. Currently, while 60% of parents see text donating as a simple and easy way to raise funds, only two per cent claim to have used text donation services for their school’s fundraising. Think tank ResPublica estimates that text donations could be worth £96m annually by 2014. “Around 50 million people carry a mobile so the potential for charities and individuals to raise additional money is very real and exciting,” commented Vodafone chief executive Guy Laurence. Schools with charitable status can sign up by visiting justtextgiving.co.uk.
New free service will help schools collect donations for things like sports equipment via text
16 June 2011
Education ICT 2011 LOCATION: The Britannia International Hotel, London Education ICT 2011 is a conference showcasing the technology-related developments and challenges that will impact the academic sector over the next five years. Building on the success of its inaugural event held in 2009, Education ICT 2011 is a non-technical event aimed at headteachers, business managers, and IT directors.
30% £10 Less than
of secondary schools have installed biometric systems, such as fingerprint recognition technology, according to Biostore
A En total les glan of 1, eq s tha d an 804 uip n d W pr me a te al ima nt, nn es ry ac er p are sch co rdi er p spen ools ng up di ac to il on ng ros Sy s sca ICT p
es you can. And, no, I’m not reminiscing about the Obama campaign – I’m talking about ICT spend. While many schools bite their collective nails, unsure of how their ICT facilities will cope with restricted budgets, the smart ones are already planning ahead. And this doesn’t mean prioritising ICT above all other spend, sometimes it means just being smarter – often using what you have. According to a study commissioned by Encyclopædia Britannica, primary school pupils who use educational apps on smartphones and tablets are performing better in school. So while it’s easy to see mobiles as a distraction to learning (or bad for your health), open-minded schools can actually use the gadgets to their advantage (see our article in Focus On). As we near the end of the academic year, and think ahead to September, the big question (which we seek to answer in another Focus On article) is: can you deliver improved IT in the classroom amidst spending cuts? Despite nearly seven in 10 teachers claiming that having state-of-theart IT equipment in classrooms is more important than investing in traditional textbooks, the government has already cut funding for ICT. So, what’s next for technology in education? Can trends in computing found in the business world, like ‘the cloud’ and virtualisation, help schools and colleges make up the deficit in their ever decreasing IT budgets while still delivering a quality curriculum and learning environment or is it a no-win situation? Of course some schools with equipment reaching its sell-by date will feel the pinch, but if less money means thinking twice about where you invest, a positive might just be found in the negative. We want to hear from you about how you’re finding restricted budgets are impacting your ICT spend. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org with your story. Until next time, have a lovely end of the academic year.
CONTENTS UPDATE SECTOR NEWS The latest developments in school technology
IN PRACTICE CASE STUDY Another dimension The Abbey School embraces 3D technology CASE STUDY Video star Primary uses web cams to save £4,500 a year
FOCUS ON MOBILE TECHNOLOGY Phoning is in Using pupils’ mobile phones to your advantage
intelligent media solutions suite 223, business design centre 52 upper street, london, N1 0QH tel 020 7288 6833 fax 020 7288 6834 email email@example.com web www.intelligentmedia.co.uk Follow Education Executive on Twitter at Twitter.com/edexec Printed in the UK by Buxton Press www.buxtonpress.co.uk
BUDGET CUTS IT against all odds Investing in IT with less money
HELP DESK TECHNO GEEK What makes a good school website
The magic number While 3D technology has taken the entertainment world by storm, many schools are yet to embrace the third dimension. Matthew Jane met Kathryn Macaulay, deputy headteacher at The Abbey School, which is pioneering the innovation SCHOOL The Abbey School TYPE All girls, independent school AGE 3-18 PUPILS 1,050 NAME Kathryn Macaulay TITLE Deputy headteacher
ames Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar brought a new and exciting 3D technology to the mainstream public, with the film’s success highlighting the appeal and demand that this innovative viewing experience has with movie fans. Since the film launched in 2009, 3D is now an expected part of the cinema experience and beyond, with even pubs now showing sporting events in 3D. So how does this technology translate into an academic environment? At the Abbey School, an independent, all-through girls school in Reading, a pioneering approach and a willingness to embrace 3D technology is proving to be a massive success. Deputy head Kathryn Macaulay has been the driving force behind the roll out of 3D technology, following an inspiring experience at the Bett Show three years ago. “I visited the Texas Instruments stand and it was the first time I had come across industry-standard 3D technology,” she explains. “I was blown away by it and told them that if they ever wanted to try it in a school we would be interested.” That meeting was followed up by a request to feature the technology in a classroom as part of a video for the following Bett Show, to demonstrate it in a real-life environment. “The aim was to back-up some research that had been
carried out at the University of Illinois, which showed that children understand better with 3D demonstrations,” says Macaulay. “We partnered with a state school, the Emmbrook School in Wokingham, and we put the two biology departments together – we wanted it to be as fair a test as possible.” The first trials used software for a science lesson based on the workings of the ear and the eye. As part of the trial process, the school used a Year 8 class as a preliminary test to see how well people could use the technology. “The results were very successful,” says Macaulay. “We felt confident and we loved it. As part of the test we appointed a professor to run quantitative experiments on it. It was growing fast and there was a lot of interest for me to present our research at various places, so I told our head of science that we needed more material and she suggested we use plant cell software.” The plant cell experiment showcased the advantages of 3D technology, as Macaulay explains: “The professor chose two Year 7 classes and taught them identically. She asked them to learn the plant cells from the teacher, with each class receiving the same presentation, the only difference being that one had a standard 2D resource, whereas the other had a 3D presentation. They were then asked to make models of what they had
learned. Every student in the 3D class made a 3D model, as it should be, whereas everyone in the 2D class constructed a flat, pizza like model.”
TEACHING TOOL While the results of the trial programme have certainly been encouraging, Macaulay is keen to stress that the technology should only be used as part of a “blended environment”, with the teacher still being the most important factor. “We tell teachers to use it for five to 10 minute bursts – we find that you get a higher impact from short bursts of 3D.” It is also important that the technology is not used as an entertainment tool. “You shouldn’t just put this on to keep the kids occupied,” warns Macaulay. “You still need the teachers to produce appropriate and inspiring lessons. The advantage is that it is something that doesn’t frighten the pupils or staff and they all like it.”
£900 The approximate cost of a class set of 3D glasses
CONSIDERING THE COSTS Many people would still consider 3D technology as a luxury item for a school, but this is something that Macaulay staunchly rejects. “I can’t see what the cost would be,” she says. “In terms of buying the software, the actual costs are absolutely comparable to the costs of buying the models that are used in the science lessons. From the point of the projector, this is something that most classrooms have these days. As long as it is DLP, then there should be no extra cost to get 3D.” She advises all schools that are planning to replace projectors to make sure they invest in Digital Light Processing (DLP), 3D-enabled products, even if there are no immediate plans to use 3D technology. Macaulay suggests that the only real cost involved is providing the glasses. “We need active glasses,
“We tell teachers to use it for five to 10 minute bursts – we find that you get a higher impact from short bursts of 3D”
which cost around $50 [approximately £30] each,” she explains. “I think that the glasses will change dramatically in the future so they will no longer be a problem, because that is the only real cost at the moment.”
DEVELOPING FURTHER Macaulay is already looking at how the technology can be explored further, and she is currently exploring advancing interactive options. “I am looking at how we can use Wii controllers to cut up an image of the heart,” she explains. “We also have the ability to look at how the Xbox Kinect will allow us to use our hands to cut up an image. I am convinced that the
ability to use hands or perhaps a device like a Wii is what children would find usual – this is what they are using at home. “My vision is to have six to eight children around a large 3D model, which could be online on the cloud, and then you could bring other children in from other schools,” she explains. With advances in 3D technology happening all the time and with the demand increasing and becoming more mainstream, schools would be well advised to start considering how and where it could be used in lessons – it could prove an inexpensive, but highly effective investment.
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VENDOR CASE STUDY JUNIOR LIBRARIAN
Playing the system As schools across the country are faced with the dilemma of improving literacy under restricted budgets, ICT Matters speaks to Carolyn Godfrey, the librarian at York’s Clifton Green Primary School, as she prepares the annual stock take, to find out how a library management system is ensuring value for money in her school library School: Clifton Green Primary School Type: 3-11 mixed, community school LA: York Pupils: 350 Librarian: Carolyn Godfrey
Proof of this investment can be found in the fact that pupils are regularly borrowing from the school’s 16,000 books, taking out as many as 4,742 this year alone, revealing that independent reading is popular with both boys and girls, as well as the fact that Godfrey’s lunchtime library club is so oversubscribed she has to turn children away. When ICT Matters caught up with Godfrey in between lessons, she divulged her secret to keeping on top of her pupils’ reading habits: a robust software system in her library.
All systems go Every child at Clifton Green from nursery to Year 6 has a weekly library session when they are encouraged to check at least one book out. Using Junior Librarian software by Micro mproving literacy has emerged as a top priority for the Librarian Systems, pupils can check their own books out with government, with Education Secretary Michael Gove a barcode scanner, which not only keeps a register of which recently recommending children read as many as 50 books are on loan to which children, as expected of any library books a year. While promising statistics show that borrowing system, but it also integrates with Clifton Green’s primary schools have made impressive gains in schools network, so it can be accessed around the school for improving literacy standards, educators are faced with staff to log into in all classrooms and also boasts a number of the added challenge of cuts to local authority-run library interactive elements too, such as a pupil book reviewing services and restricted feature. budgets that inevitably lead to When budgets are busier staff and less face time limited, schools need to A good library system will help you keep with a librarian. How can ensure their pupils are track of resources so you know what you’ve schools achieve the balance of getting the most out of their got when you have less money in your budget library. A library improving reading skills while running a more streamlined for your library and you’re not then spending management software organisation? system like this not only it on things you don’t need Carolyn Godfrey is one helps raise the profile of a teaching assistant/librarian school’s library and who may have found the resources, but it gives the answer. She admits to wearing many hats at her busy 3-11 school leaders tangible data on the reading habits of their mixed, community primary school and hardly finds time to pupils, which can be organised by categories like gender and pause between teaching children, acting as the school’s year group. This information can then be used to improve librarian for five hours a week and running a weekly lunchtime teaching in the classroom and also takes the guesswork out of library club. stocking libraries, thus ensuring librarians’ budgets go as far While maintaining a very busy schedule, Godfrey and her as possible. colleagues manage to instil the joy of reading into the minds As we near the end of the academic year, Godfrey prepares of her pupils with so much success that her school – Clifton to do this very thing. “In June we do an annual stock take Green Primary in York – accomplished an ‘excellence’ in through Junior Librarian and that helps us keep tabs on where English from Ofsted, which the watchdog said was thanks to everything is,” she explains. “It’s also a time to collate its “investment in the enjoyment of reading”. the evidence of a previous year to see what resources
Using engaging technologies to develop independent motivated readers and learners for life
have been well-used or not and then we can target our stock purchasing.” This is particularly valuable for updating library resources with a short use-by date – like geography and ICT books, the information in which becomes out-dated very quickly as the world changes. “In our library’s computer section, texts that are 10-15 years old can be very out-of-date,” Godfrey adds, “so we will look at the year they were put on the library system and if we have the money, we can replace them.” Money is undoubtedly an issue in many schools these days, but those looking to make cost-effective investments in their library would be well-advised to consider software that helps them target their limited resources. “[A good library system will] help you keep track of resources so you know what you’ve got when you have less money in your budget for your library,” Godfrey confirms. “You’re not then spending it on things you don’t need.” For schools keen to boost literacy among their pupils, a robust library system is just the start and getting children interested in reading requires a school-wide effort. “It all adds evidence to the availability of giving children different opportunities to read – sadly it doesn’t track how much they actually read,” quips Godfrey. “But having books around that are not just for study and are there for fun will certainly help.” As her demanding schedule beckons, Godfrey leaves us with one poignant final comment: “In five hours a week, I certainly couldn’t do all that I do as a librarian if I didn’t have a system like this one.”
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Appy to help Mobile phones may still be frowned upon as learning tools, but with research underlining the potential benefits of using apps and other smartphone tools, Matt Jane considers why we should not be so quick to outlaw the phone
obile phones have long been viewed as the folk devil of educational technology, with teaching staff uneasy about including them in lessons and schools commonly banning them from their premises. This fear over the mobile menace was recently flagged up again when the Department for Education included phones in a list of items that could be searched for and confiscated from pupils – putting them in the same category as weapons and drugs. However, research has shown that the use of smartphones and tablets could actually be an enabler in the classroom and children should be encouraged to take out their phones in lessons. One study by Encyclopaedia Britannica found that 40% of parents who download educational apps said their child’s academic performance improved as a result. The report also showed that, as well as helping to raise academic attainment, educational apps are helping children everyday inside the classroom. The vast majority of parents who have downloaded an app (94%) say they have helped their child with school work and projects, while more than half of parents with smart devices actively encourage their child to download apps for exam revision, homework and learning about new topics. The use of phones in schools could also prove vital in developing learners who will be ready for the wider world once they leave the sanctuary of school. “In a rapidly converging world, businesses are changing the way they develop and distribute content and smart phones and mobile apps are right at the forefront of this,” says Liz Wilkins from Adobe Education. “By integrating mobile phones into lessons, schools can help prepare students for the wealth of emerging industries and career opportunities that this brings.”
Paul Clarke from Pervica suggests that, despite the fact that smart phones now bring with them a host of distractions such as gaming and music, they have a part to play in boosting creativity. “There are obvious examples, like using camera phones to compose arts projects, but there is a more technical side emerging too,” he says. “Many teachers are now teaching their students how to take their first steps in programming and with some programming environments these early programmes can run on mobile phones too.” Mobile devices present a wide range of options for use in the classroom, and Fiona Aubrey-Smith from UniServity suggests that those teachers who have already embraced this technology view mobile phones as just another tool to support effective teaching and learning. “We must focus on managing the behaviour associated with technology usage and teach students about responsible use, rather than simply preventing access,” she says. Gareth Wynne from Futurelab says this is technology that pupils will be exposed to every day, through mobile phones, MP3 players, PDAs and games consoles. “Technology that students enjoy using should be embraced in the classroom, to help break down the barriers associated with learning by providing an engaging and fun environment in which to learn,” he says, adding that using students’ personal devices can also help save school funds. With the buzzword of personalised learning still reverberating around schools
“The use of phones in schools could also prove vital in developing learners who will be ready for the wider world once they leave the sanctuary of school”
“By integrating mobile phones into lessons, schools can help prepare students for the wealth of emerging industries and career opportunities that this brings” and colleges, mobile phones have the power to deliver experiences totally bespoke to the user. These include specific language settings to support EAL students, and personalised text, background colour and assistive technology applications to support SEN pupils. “To ban them from classrooms undermines the personalisation agenda every school is working tirelessly to achieve,” says Aubrey-Smith. As well as using phones for engaging in existing technology, there is scope for students to develop their own apps and content for smartphones. “With the right tools it is easy for students to take their first steps in programming apps, and these can be run on web browsers or mobile phones,” says Clarke. “The very ‘coolness’ of mobile devices that gives them their negative image can be turned so that even children least likely to be motivated in lessons want to join in the creative process of app writing.” Wilkins adds that app development can also engage learners across a variety of skills. “It also drives core skills such as mathematics, via the use of coding, communication and creativity by developing compelling content that engages other people, and collaboration, as they work in groups to develop and build an application,” she says.
GETTING ON BOARD
Despite the positive applications for mobile phones in schools, there will always be some staff who will be more apprehensive about allowing these devices into their lessons, for a variety of reasons. “A lack of familiarity with different devices, lack of confidence and lack of understanding of how to use them are the three key elements that may prevent teachers from using mobile devices in the classroom,” explains Aubrey-Smith. Wynne suggests teachers should adopt a learner’s mindset and work with pupils, who might be more familiar with the technology and applications. “This may include developing a set of commonly agreed principles around safety, privacy and etiquette,” he says. “Experience suggests that once the boundaries have been ‘tested’ by students, responsible use quickly follows.” He also recommends developing a programme of CPD for staff. One of the fears teachers may hold is about the accountability should mobile devices be used inappropriately by pupils, such as for sending explicit material around school. “To help alleviate this fear, schools’ behaviour management strategies need to be revisited so that clear boundaries regarding accountability can be understood and implemented,” says Aubrey-Smith. A good starting point for integrating mobile phones into teaching and learning is through fieldtrips and similar excursions that allow for learning to take place outside the classroom. “A key outcome for using mobile phones as learning conduits must be the development of independent, anytime, anywhere learners,” concludes Wynne.
Don’t break the bank Schools may no longer be in a position to spend large amounts on ICT solutions, but that does not mean that investment in this area has to end. Matthew Jane considers how to provide quality ICT opportunities on a shoestring
ducational technology is constantly evolving. Whether it is the launch of the latest gadgets to engage learners or new ways of working collaboratively, there is always something new to grab the attention of students and teachers alike. But in these frugal times schools are increasingly struggling to provide the level of investment they would like in this crucial area. A recent BESA report, titled ‘Impact of New Technologies’, found that more and more schools feel they are unlikely to be able to maintain planned new technology investments for the coming year, with 56% of primary and 65% of secondary schools suggesting it is unfeasible. Although the big budgets of recent years have come to a screeching halt, it does not mean that technological innovation no longer has a place in the classroom. If anything, it is more important than ever to ensure learners are properly equipped. “Our evolving technological landscape continues to drive socio-economic change, so as educators we cannot afford to stop innovating or thinking creatively,” says Gareth Wynne from Futurelab. “We must embrace the learning possibilities of new technologies and provide every child with an equal chance to participate in this new technological culture.” Not only is this technology something that will fully equip learners to enter the world of work with applicable skills, it is now something that, from an early age, they will expect to use in day-to-day activities. For example, research shows that 60% of children regularly produce and distribute material on the internet. “Young people want to learn from their peers and many are keen to share their experiences to become valuable members
“Our evolving technological landscape continues to drive socio-economic change, so as educators we cannot afford to stop innovating or thinking creatively” of these online communities,” says Wynne. “Students are no longer constrained by their geography, types of resources they access or the people they collaborate with and we must embrace this in the school environment.” Fortunately, there have been some significant advances in technology that are allowing schools to save both money and energy while continuing to deliver a quality learning experience. “For instance, [there is] high speed internet access that gives access to web-based applications and desktop virtualisation, which is a form of shared computing,” suggests John Barco from NComputing. Virtualisation is a useful way of extending the life of hardware and infrastructure as it can be deployed on existing computers and servers. “Desktop virtualisation means using virtual desktops instead of traditional PCs,” explains Barco. “It can triple the size of a computer classroom without increasing the ICT budget.” As well as saving money on hardware, virtualisation could also help reduce energy bills. Cloud computing is another increasingly popular way for schools to save money while still delivering excellent service. “Infinitely scalable with transparent costs, schools can choose from a range of services tailored to their individual needs and budget,” says Chris Wiseman from Northgate Managed Services. “This enables schools to step into the cloud at their own pace while being able to reap the associated long-term cost savings.”
Technology can also help teaching and administrative staff to be more efficient – in turn saving time and money. “Schools must improve their systems to support teachers by offering intelligent solutions that relieve staff from tasks such as server maintenance, freeing them up to undertake more productive work and allowing them to put their IT kit to better use. Automated reports and letter templates, for instance, can save schools a lot of time and money in the long run,” explains Mohamad Djahanbakhsh from Serco Learning
While schools should always be seeking improvements to their ICT offering, the backdrop of spending cuts makes buying new items difficult. “Schools need to be mindful when implementing a new technology, ensuring that they procure the very best value, that it makes both financial and efficiency improving sense, and that it is successful in supporting and enhancing the educational experience,” says Stuart Abrahams from Groupcall. Schools need to focus on the intended educational outcomes of any new investment, rather than being blinded by gadgets. “Investing in a suite of the latest devices such as Apple iPads must be linked to tangible teaching and learning outcomes and not purchased simply because they are a new technology,” comments Wiseman. Schools could also consider utilising devices that students already own. “The vast majority of students are walking around with their own powerful handheld computers, which are cheaper and more portable than laptops, so schools should make maximum use of these,” says Wynne. Fiona Aubrey-Smith from UniServity suggests that by maximising the use of students’ own devices, schools can also widen the opportunities for anytime, anywhere learning and “focus school ICT budgets on technologies to support students without personal devices”. Schools may also be able to utilise technology in different capacities to increase its value, and they should think creatively about new ways to use technology assets. “Digital dictaphones, small video cameras, and even smartpens have proven to help students communicate their ideas and engage in learning,” says Jackie Harber from Iansyst. These tools could have a host of applications in the classroom, far beyond their primary function. Djahanbakhsh says schools should be evaluating their current ICT solutions success in order to effectively explore future possibilities, particularly in line
with new ways of working and new school management structures. “Hosted MIS solutions can deliver efficiencies at every level, from single schools keen to reduce their ICT overheads, to federations seeking greater scalability and consistency for groups of schools,” he says.
MAKE THE MOST
It is important that any ICT is used to its maximum capacity, and any future investment in this area will need to be thoroughly justified and fully utilised. In order to do this, training in the technology and simplicity in its use will be key drivers. “Ensuring that teachers, administrators and students receive relevant training on the technology, understand it and can clearly see the benefits of it is fundamental to the success of any existing technology,” says Abrahams. “Suppliers should be more than happy to provide the right level of training as part of the technology package, and if they don’t, schools should consider looking elsewhere.” Aubrey-Smith recommends involving the expertise of students when improving the use of existing technology. “Opening discussion with students about their online learning space and the tools and applications they enjoy using may inspire some fresh ideas that can be implemented in school,” she says. “For example, if students are using their online learning space to collaborate with peers in forum debates in their own time, teachers could apply this concept using the interactive whiteboard in class.” There are many cost effective ways to improve the ICT offering in a school. With a host of free or inexpensive solutions available, schools do not need to break the bank in order to provide an innovative, engaging and relevant learning environment for students.
Top Tips Five tips for improving ICT on a limited budget, suggested by John Barco from NComputing
Consider new alternatives to old ways of working – Online tools like Google maps, open source applications for giving full desktop environments, or desktop virtualisation to extend computer access all extend the usability of ICT.
Extend high speed internet – This will give students and teachers access to online information and research tools.
Consider emerging access devices – Tablets and virtualisation could be more affordable and easier to maintain.
Consider the total cost of ownership of technology – Maintenance, energy consumption and the length of the useful life should all be factored in.
Promote online collaboration tools – Google calendar and wikis are often free to use and give teachers a wide range of tools to dedicate online space to a class.
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G School Websites: Crowd sourcing your thoughts Techno Geek takes the plunge and gets you, the readers, to answer the questions of you the readers by crowd-sourcing a question sent to him by the readers through the usual social networking channels. This month’s topic: school websites
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Dear Techno Geek, I very much enjoy reading your column in the ICT Matters and was wondering if I could ask you for some advice. I am just about to embark on a full evaluation, and restructuring where necessary, of our school website. I was just wondering if you had any top tips/good practice or pitfalls over school websites? I want to make ours contemporary, informative and eye-catching.
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Reader Response 1
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Reader Response 3
Simple guidelines that apply to every website:
You need to ask yourself: “Who is looking and the site, and why?” A list of users might look like: Parents Potential staff members Students Sponsors Governors Local government officers Suppliers Journalists Community members (including businesses) What does the user need to get from their visit? Schools and colleges need to comprehensively address this question. They should also consider what the school/college needs to get from the website? This could include targets such as: better reputation accurate messaging more students communication with parents brand building/strengthening news sharing and announcements. Ruth Sparkes of empra.co.uk
It is important to find a balance on the website; students and teachers should be able to interact in an educational manner, but it should not be so involved that parents become lost in endless streams of information. Consideration should be given to the use of video on the homepage and deeper within the site. It is essential the site is easy to use and navigate, keeping the menu system clear and concise to signpost the relevant areas. In the current social media boom, services such as Twitter and Facebook provide an accessible interface for both student and faculty. This medium can be harnessed to solidify a connection with the public and to discuss key events within the school community. A good website grows over time. Liz NcNaughton of Ecce Media
1. Great design – the design positions the school. A clear interface helps parents use the site (assuming that’s the primary audience) 2. Good, targeted content – well-written content that’s clearly signposted and if it can be broken down into digestible chunks, so much the better 3. Regularly updated – recent news items, school calendars, image galleries etc. Things to avoid include: too much content, especially on the home page not enough photos (they’re great for adding interest to a page) launching a site then never updating it ‘over-design’, i.e. something that’s so involved it becomes very difficult to update, detracts from the content and dates very quickly. Graham Miles
Next month: We will be looking at developing your school’s online policy.. Should kids be friends with teachers on Facebook? I will have a guest piece from a lawyer who specialises in this topic
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