Posted in Funding, school business management, Uncategorized

Remaining an effective SBM during a funding crisis

The education landscape is forever changing – with teacher workload dominating the news, alongside the proposed plans of the national funding formula, we understand that school business managers (SBMs) are feeling the pressure.

Not only do you have to deal with the government agenda and ever-changing policies at a fast pace, but your role is constantly evolving.

So, how can SBMs ensure they are working effectively, and that their school is financially efficient, in the face of financial cuts?

Created in collaboration with Caroline Collins, Head of School Business at Miles Coverdale Primary School, Fellow of NASBM and Specialist Leader of Education, here are some key tips to help you during this uncertain time. Continue reading “Remaining an effective SBM during a funding crisis”

Posted in Funding, Uncategorized

A fairer funding formula?

Funding for schools is an issue at the forefront of education sector reforms – having first been announced in March 2016 in the White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’, on 13 December 2016 the government announced stage two of its consultation plans to design and implement a new way of funding for schools.

If you have ever attempted to unpick and understand the formula used by LAs to fund schools, you will have no doubt been left just as confused and confounded as you were when you started. Many have argued that the allocation of funding to schools is based on a formula that is too historic and outdated to meet the needs of any pupils in our schools today. Continue reading “A fairer funding formula?”

Posted in Funding, school business management, teacher's pay, Uncategorized

The good, the bad and the debatable

*Any views and opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not those of TheSchoolBus or HCSS Hub Ltd.*

It comes as no surprise that as George Osborne announced his financial plans for the country; he revealed the education sector will be facing yet more cuts.

Despite the Conservative Party’s promise to protect school budgets and spending per pupil, plans have been confirmed to reduce the funding of educational support services. After all, if a politician stuck to their promises, then it really would be headline news.

The aim of this overhaul in education is to remove large regional differences in levels of per pupil funding. But, is it doing more harm than good? It is debatable, that’s for sure.

The good

It is not all bad news though, as total financial support for education and care will increase by £10 billion in the next five years.

The Chancellor has upped his pledge to protect school budgets, with the news that pupil premium and grants for schools based on the number of pupils will also be protected.

Meanwhile, to help school and college sixth-forms stay afloat, a rescue package has been offered with the aim of protecting them from further cuts. Sixth-form colleges will also have the chance to save themselves £317,000 a year in VAT payments, as it was revealed that they will now have the opportunity to become academies.[1]

Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth-Form Colleges Association, James Kewin, said: “The Chancellor has delivered better than expected news for sixth-form colleges today. A further round of cuts would have had a devastating effect on the life chances of sixth-form colleges.”(Garner, para 5)

In an attempt to help out parents, Osborne has confirmed proposals for 30 hours of free childcare for three-to-four year olds. However, it is not as black and white as you would hope.

Only parents who work at least 16 hours a week and earn less than £100,000 a year will be eligible for the service. This raises the question as to what about the single parents who can’t work 16 hours a week, due to the need for childcare. Will they be eligible for free childcare too?

Malcolm Trobe, Deputy General Secretary of the Association of School and Colleges, said: “It is important for people to understand that schools and colleges face substantial real-terms cuts despite the spending commitments made today.”

The bad

Whilst there is some good news following the spending review, it can be argued that it is outweighed by the increasing worry over the cuts that are to be imposed.

“There are no winners and losers under the government’s funding proposals – there are only losers and even bigger losers,” said the NUT’s Kevin Courtney.[2]

It is likely that a storm is brewing after it was announced that cuts will be made to the funding of educational support services.

The Local Government Association has warned of £600m being taken from budgets for services such as speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, music and checks on staff. For many children these services are vital to their learning and development, raising suspicion as to why this action that has been taken. (Coughlan, para 13)

Is this the only way that Osborne can successfully fulfil his promise of protecting school budgets?

The debatable

As news of the review sinks in, Pope Francis has added another ingredient to the mix, by declaring that teachers should be given a pay rise. After he raised his concerns in March, describing it as an “injustice” that teachers are paid so poorly, the Pontiff has continued to cause a stir.[3]

Calling on Catholic educators to overcome a tendency towards being too selective, Pope Francis said: “The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”(Busby, para 4)

An issue causing further debate within the educational funding debacle is whether free school meals will still be available in the future. Following the promise to protect school budgets, cuts must be made in the slim amount of areas left possible, including the free school meals initiative.[4]

With David Cameron fully backing the free school meals programme (it was a Conservative manifesto pledge after all), the initiative has been spared the axe, but it is more than likely not the end of the debate.

As the teaching sector continues to take a financial battering, the spending review has only highlighted the money woes that schools and sixth-forms are facing with yet more budget cuts. In the words of ABBA; “it’s a rich man’s world.”

[1] Richard Garner (2015) ‘Autumn Statement: Government to protect schools and college sixth-forms from future cuts’, para.3 <> [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

[2] Sean Coughlan (2015) ‘Spending Review: School funding to be overhauled’, para.11  <>  [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

[3] Eleanor Busby (2015) ‘The Pope calls for teachers to be given a pay rise’, para.5 <> [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

[4] Rowena Mason (2015) ‘How George Osborne’s spending cuts will affect each government department’, para.8 <>   [Last accessed: 30 November 2015]

Posted in education, Funding, opinion, teacher's pay, Uncategorized

Budget 2015: Earn vs. Learn

Since the government released details of their ‘emergency’ summer budget they have been both criticised for “failing the young”, but also praised for introducing a “budget for the working people” – depending on which newspaper you choose to read.

Whichever way you look at it, the young people set to leave school in 2016-17, asking themselves “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”, will be in a heightened, pressurised position due to the new budget.

Disadvantaging the disadvantaged?

The most fundamental changes to the budget include an increase to the national living wage, which will rise to £7.20 next April, and should reach £9 by 2020. This was surprising but (somewhat) welcome news in George Osbourne’s budget announcement. [1] So, what’s the catch? It excludes under 25s, and together with the cuts made to the welfare budget − which includes a freeze on working-age benefits, tax credits and local housing allowance until 2020 − the reform is estimated to cost 3 million families an average of £1000 a year. [2]

“The key fact is that the increase in the minimum wage simply cannot provide full compensation for the majority of losses that will be experienced by tax credit recipients.”

− Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Another major introduction with the budget was the ‘youth obligation’, which says 18 to 21-year-olds must ‘earn or learn’, rather than sign-up for benefits after leaving school. Young people who don’t find work or education will be expected to gain work-based skills through an apprenticeship, traineeship or work-based placement, or they will lose their benefits.

While this could potentially produce positive effects, it may also be a threatening prospect for those from poorer backgrounds, considering that the automatic entitlement to housing benefit has essentially been scrapped, and that last year those under 25 missed out on most of the apprenticeships on offer.[3]

Alongside this, university students will no longer be able to claim maintenance grants. The entirety of their student finance will come in the form of a loan, but larger loans are up for grabs, meaning more debt.[4]

So, with all these factors laid out on the same page, it seems that when the pupils of today come to leave school, in particular disadvantaged pupils, they will be faced with two options: accumulate thousands of pounds worth of debt for the chance at a higher paid job later in life, or attempt to go into a low-paying apprenticeship with the potential to climb the ladder over time. It’s safe to assume that for a lot of disadvantaged pupils neither of these options may be viable, so what happens to them?

Public sector pay rise cap

The breakdown of the new budget shows that the government is set to spend a total of £742.3bn on the public sector in 2015-16, with £99bn of that on education, third in the ranking below welfare and health. Despite this, school teachers and leaders still fall victim to a cap on public sector pay rises, which limits them to a one percent pay rise annually over the next four years. Therefore, the budget’s effect could extend further than those pupils leaving school, and to those still in school.[5] Unions are concerned that an announcement like this, amidst the ‘teaching crisis’, will make recruitment and retainment harder. This, together with a rise in pupil numbers, could have a knock-on effect that leaves more pupils with fewer teachers, and according to evidence highlighted by the Chair of Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, excellent teachers are already thin on the ground for poorer pupils.[6]

Earn don’t learn?

In the run-up to the election, we saw a lot of emphasis on ‘skills, skills, skills!’ with parties attempting to trump one another with regards to the number of apprenticeships they could offer young people. These factors of the new budget seem to further deter young people from university and towards a more vocational method of attaining working-life skills and knowledge.

With all this in mind, it could seem that the government want school leavers to earn rather than learn. While this could be a short-term solution to solving the deficit problem, it does cast doubt over what sort of society we will have in the future if people with potential have been denied the opportunity to further their education.

Coming to the end of this article, it feels like there is a dark cloud looming over school leavers; however, while the future may look like a complex web of ‘what ifs’ and ‘buts’, schools can still work their hardest to prepare their pupils to face these tough life-decisions at the end of school-life, and to face the results that incur as they progress further and further into adult life.

If you haven’t already, perhaps now is a good time to ensure your school’s careers advice is up-to-scratch!

TheSchoolBus has a number of resources to help schools make it through this squeeze on the budget. We have a topic dedicated to careers guidance, which contains research, guidance and templates. We also make recruitment and retainment less of a strain with our job descriptions for teaching and support staff and staff management guidance and templates.

This will surely not be the end of the discussion in the media, so make sure you have your say in the comments section below.

[1] UK Politics (2015) ‘Budget 2015 key points: At-a-glance summary’ <> [Accessed: 13 July 2015]

[2] Heather Stewart and Patrick Wintour (2015) ‘George Osbourne took ‘much more from the poor’ in budget’<> [Accessed: 14  July 2015]

[3] Sally Weale and France Perraudin (2015) ‘Osbourne accused of picking on young people with ‘earn or learn’ budget’ <> [Accessed: 13 July 2015]

[4] Anoosh Chakelian (2015) ‘Budget 2015: what welfare changes did George Osbourne announce, and what do they mean?’ <> [Accessed: 13 July 2015]

[5] Kaye Wiggins (2015) ‘Teachers’ pay rises limited to 1 per cent for four years’ <> [Accessed: 13 July 2015]

[6] Javier Espinoza (2015) ‘’Turbo-charge’ young teachers’ careers to get them to teach in tough schools, says social mobility tsar’ <> [Accessed: 13 July 2015]

Posted in Free School Meals, Funding, policy, schools

Why Free School Meals can offer everything and the kitchen sink

This week, we have a new blog by Paul Aagaard, Director at Recipe for Change.  The organisation will soon become a contributor for TheSchoolBus site , and will provide informative resources on the implementation of universal free school meals for infants which is set to kick-off from September 2014.

Recipe for Change has a proven track record in improving behaviour and concentration by increasing school food provision. They develop and implement lunchtime improvement programmes that often include introducing systemic changes to this daily routine practice. To achieve this, they work in partnership with local authorities and caterers and consult with the whole school community to ensure everyone has their say and to ensure everyone is supportive of any change to school food provision.

Like many headteachers, Emma Payne at St Mary Redcliffe Primary in Bristol believes that there’s “no simple solution” to universal free school meals (UFSM) implementation. But, as the Guardian published the first of a series of articles[1] focusing on the challenges her school is facing, Payne said that “we will find one, because that’s what we do”. So what can schools like St Mary Redcliffe do if they face capacity issues in the kitchen and the dining room? Is this, as Payne suggests, a “complex solution that takes time” or is there a simpler solution?

Solving the kitchen sink drama

When it comes to dealing with the kitchen sink there is government funding available. But it’s unclear at the moment which schools will get a share of the £150 million and whether the new kitchens will be ready in time for September. So whilst schools like St Mary Redcliffe are waiting to find out if they’re going to get a new kitchen, what else can they be doing?

Hiring a kitchen pod, which can cook up to 150 meals a day at a cost of approximately £1,000 a month, is one solution for a school like St Mary Redcliffe that needs to prepare up to an additional 120 meals a day. But before this option is considered, it’s important to establish whether kitchen staff working longer hours, an increase in staffing levels and changing working patterns is a way to increase capacity. As the School Food Plan points out: “School catering teams often feel that they are working at full capacity, when in fact they might be working within a current set-up that slows them down”[2]. For example, serving school meals from two hot trolleys located in the dining room is one way to make sure large volumes of children get served quickly.

Managing dining hall capacity

Despite a significant increase in the school roll, many school dining halls haven’t been extended since they were first built. As a result the dining hall isn’t big enough; it’s often very crowded and noisy, and isn’t conducive to eating or socialising. How can schools like St Mary Redcliffe, with over 400 children and only fifteen tables, manage this capacity problem and ensure the dining hall environment is calm, relaxed and gives children enough time to eat their dinner?

Believe it or not, there is a relatively simple solution for St Mary Redcliffe, and that’s creating four 20-25 minute sittings running from 11.40 to 13.20. Assuming the folding tables can seat up to 8 pupils, each sitting could accommodate up to 120 children, with some spare capacity for those in the first, second and third sitting to eat for longer if they wanted to.

However, this simple solution becomes a bit more complicated when you consider how it would impact on the academic day. Starting lunchtime five minutes earlier at 11.40 means some classes would lose learning minutes and finishing at 1.20 would mean that PE in the hall would start late. On that basis, is this solution a non-starter? If you are a school that believes lunchtime is purely about feeding our children and nothing else, then yes, it is. But if you are a school that recognises lunchtime has a strategic value and can help improve school performance, then it’s worth considering seriously. Part of the solution to dealing with UFSM is to look at lunchtime in a different way and see it as a real opportunity to make our children do better at school.

Lunchtime and school improvement

Schools will prioritise interventions on the basis of evidence and impact to support Ofsted judgements. Extending lunchtime, therefore, and losing learning minutes doesn’t sound like a great idea. This is where headteachers need to make a paradigm shift in their perception. What would you prefer, a shorter lunchtime that is chaotic and rushed, leading to children talking about unresolved incidents and therefore lose learning minutes in the afternoon, or a longer, calmer and more relaxed lunchtime where learning outcomes aren’t compromised because children are ready to learn in the afternoon? And here’s the next paradigm shift in perception. Lunchtime is, in its own right, a learning opportunity which is another under-exploited way of making our children do better. To support numeracy, for example, one school in Yorkshire improved instant recall by introducing multiplication plates at lunchtime with the times tables printed on them. Although lunchtime shouldn’t be seen as another class, it can be used very effectively to help reinforce learning outcomes.

Children’s socialisation is another key benefit of getting lunchtime right. We teach our children about friendships and how to communicate with each other in PSHE classes, so why not use lunchtime as a way of putting that learning into practice? As Ed Baines, Senior Lecturer in Psychology for the Institute of Education, says: “School lunchtimes provide one of the main opportunities for free social interaction with friends and peers and – worryingly – for some it might be the only time”. [3]

What evidence do we have that a good lunchtime can improve attainment and progress and how does it compare with other interventions? The Sutton Trust Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit[4] claim that a phonics intervention, for example, can result in children making on average eight months more progress. The UFSM pilot findings[5] revealed that children made up to two months more progress. This doesn’t compare very favourably. However, social and emotional learning interventions can, according to the Sutton Trust, add six months progress, particularly those that “are embedded into routine educational practices”. A well-organised lunchtime – which is a routine practice – that motivates children to engage in good conversation could result in children making up to eight months progress when the impact of socialisation is combined with the UFSM findings.

If a good lunchtime can make a positive impact on progress, isn’t it worth spending some time on throwing everything and the kitchen sink at creating a system that is designed for children, not adults, so they are ready to learn again in the afternoon?

If you’d like to learn more about creating a lunchtime experience which is calm, relaxing and enjoyable for everyone, visit

Follow Recipe for Change on Twitter @Recipe_4_Change

recipe for change


  1. Schools Struggle with Free School Meals Initiative
  2. School Food Plan – Q&A for Headteachers
  3. Let’s do (school) lunch: lessons in social and emotional development can never replace the real thing
  4. The Education Endwoment Foundation Toolkit
  5. The DfE’s Evaluation of the free school meals pilot: impact report
Posted in Alternative Provision, curriculum, education, Free School Meals, Funding, leadership, learning, opinion, policy, relationships, schools, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Working to reduce bullying and minimising negative consequences when it occurs – Part 2

On Monday, Dr. Bob Sproson, Director of Education at the Red Balloon Learning Centre, discussed how to identify children that are at risk of bullying and how a school might support them on site. Dr. Sproson now concludes this fantastic article by exploring how a school might support the most severely bullied children at alternative educational providers such as Red Balloon and how to access funding.

Alternative Provision:

It is rare that issues cannot be resolved ‘in situ’ and the student, therefore, continue to attend their school. In extremis, however, the trauma undergone by the student is such that continued attendance is genuinely impossible for her/him  (at least the fear generated by it is too great for her/him to contemplate). In some cases an agreed / arranged transfer to another school may provide an answer; occasionally the fear is simply ‘of school’, thus a transfer, or, as is often offered, attendance at on onsite unit, cannot be the solution – temporarily, school is not an option.

In such cases the student retains their right to full time education and an appropriate alternative provider should be sought.

Red Balloon is the only current provider offering high quality academic provision alongside a wellbeing programme that aims to re-build the student’s self image and provide them with the interpersonal skills and the positive self esteem necessary to re-access mainstream school.

Red Balloon offers this both through attendance at its ‘actual’ centres and through its online learning service (Red Balloon of the Air) – the latter is growing almost daily. Any contact regarding provision that can be made available should be made to local centres where appropriate:

or to the Red Balloon Central Office where a local centre is not accessible.

Funding advice:

Simply because of its size (appropriate alternative provision for this purpose needs to be very small and to offer bespoke curriculum opportunities), alternative provision is considerably more expensive per capita than mainstream schooling.

The intention of an alternative provider will always be to re-access mainstream provision; placement duration might vary between one and five terms. In terms of the longer term cost of ‘failure to provide’ (both in terms of cost to the state should the student never re-access education and become dependent upon the state, and in terms of potential compensation to be paid by the local authority or school for such failure), the short term cost is money very well invested. It remains the responsibility of all local authorities to ensure that all students access full time appropriate education.

Schools might access funding through:

  • Per capita allocation AWPU or core funding;
  • Pro rata allocation of other funding streams / grants provided to the school;
  • Pupil premium;
  • AP funding – in certain authorities las have devolved funding to individual schools or school clusters;
  • LACSEG – received by academies to enable them to fund provision that previously would have been funded through the LA;
  • Delegated SEN funding – all schools now receive some baseline funding for SEN students… students who self exclude following bullying have a temporary ‘special need’.

Returning to my initial notion of schools as communities. Martin Buber (Ich und Du – I and Thou, 1933) argued that once people are viewed as objects / statistics, then ‘empathy erosion’ and lack of care occur – does the drive to collect data and meet targets cast students as objects, thus de-humanising them from the school’s perspective?

Simon Baron-Cohen develops this view and argues that, “empathy occurs when we suspend our single minded focus of attention, and instead adopt a double minded focus of attention”. Another way of explaining Baron-Cohen’s notion is that any just or moral person or society must always embrace the view of ‘the other’ at the same time as their/its own. If students are taught to do this, it becomes almost inconceivable that they might bully others; if school staff can maintain this ‘double minded focus of attention’, they can work effectively with the bullies and the bullied.

rblogo234x2567a Chesterton Mill, French’s Road, Cambridge, CB4 3NP Tel: 01223 366052


Registered Charity No. 1109606