1. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
2. Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff; and
3. Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
You will be familiar with the three core functions of school governance, but we’re sure that many of you are struggling with the third one.
In the 2016 NGA/TES survey of governors and trustees, they received 5000 responses and found funding shortages are already having a real impact: 26% reported having made redundancies in the previous 12 months – but this number rose to 55% among secondary schools. 60% said that financial constraints would mean they need to reduce spending on staff over the next two years, rising to 77% for secondary schools.33% of those responding said that their school's offer to pupils has been reduced as a result of funding constraints and, again, this included 60% of secondary school governors and trustees.
These experiences back up findings of the National Audit Office, which is forecasting an 8% real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding for mainstream schools between 2014-15 and 2019-20 due to cost pressures. This is because, while the 2015 Spending Review protected the overall schools budget from forecast inflation, the projected increase in pupil numbers means that funding per pupil will, on average, see a real-terms reduction once inflation is taken into account. On top of this, schools are already absorbing higher costs through higher employer national insurance and pension contributions. When the apprenticeship levy comes into operation in April, this will put further strain on the budgets of many maintained schools.
The new national funding formula (NFF) is supposed to achieve fairer funding across England, but as proposed the NFF will not entirely end the school funding postcode lottery and will not make life any easier for many schools in the lowest funded areas, such as Stockport. This is in large part because the proposed changes are being made at a time of increasing costs for schools, and therefore the basic amount provided for each pupil is insufficient.
The proposed new funding formula indicates that all schools will receive a lump sum of money. This amount will be £110,000. This will contribute towards the fixed costs that do not vary with pupil numbers and will give schools certainty that they will receive this amount each year in addition to the funding based on pupils attending the school and their characteristics.
On top of the lump sum the illustrative annual basic funding for each pupil in a primary school (Reception to Year 6) will be £2712. Pupils in Key Stage 3 will get £3,797. Pupils in KS4 will get £4,312.
More money will be provided for schools to support pupils with additional needs. For example, deprivation and low prior attainment. There will also be more money for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.The funding consultation is an opportunity and while it’s open, governors and trustees can tell the government exactly what they think about the way they propose to distribute the money in future. For example, should more money be put into the ‘basic per pupil’ pot than is proposed?
But there is a second question here. Is the overall amount of funding for schools enough? We don’t think it is.
We are therefore urging you to lobby your local MP in advance of the budget on March 8th and to respond to the NFF consultation. A joint initiative between Stockport’s Primary and Secondary heads is urging the same, with template letters to go to parents and your MP. NGA have also produced a template for governors to use (download it here in docx format), but whichever format you use, it would be more powerful if the letters were issued jointly from the head and the chair. If you can, take the time to personalise them to your individual circumstances.
We gave strong consideration to including a workshop on Finance in the Stockport Governors Conference (link here), but decided that because the consultation would still be open, there would be little new that we could share with you at this time. We are ,however, looking to put on an event in the Summer term, focussing on improving financial efficiency and there will also be opportunity at the Conference Q&A to delve further into this issue.
If you have not already registered for the Conference, please do so, as places are limited.