At the end of the previous post I mentioned some research that RM Education conducted straight after the Spending Review. This research was conducted via an online survey, a link to which was emailed to a sample of headteachers in England a few hours after the Spending Review announcements had concluded. In total 81 headteachers replied to the survey, which was a reasonable response given the short deadline, but because of the low base we need to be careful that we do not to read too much into the results.
Overall, the initial reaction to the Spending Review was reasonably positive, with 36 per cent of respondents saying that the settlement for schools was slightly better than expected and a further four per cent thinking it was much better than expected (see Figure 1). The vast majority of the remaining respondents (54 per cent) considered that the result matched their expectations; just six per cent thought it was worse than expected (three per cent slightly worse and three per cent much worse). However, these results obviously depend on what was 'expected' before the announcements were made--as one headteacher commented, "just because it was as expected, does not mean that it's ok".
Figure 1 - Headteachers' Reaction to the Spending Review
Despite the reasonably positive reaction to last week's announcements, the majority of headteachers responding to the survey were cautious about how closely these announcements will match the reality of the situation once individual school allocations are revealed. Several headteachers commented that because of the lack of clarity it is currently impossible to plan their curriculum and staffing effectively, and that so much was resting on how much their school would benefit or lose out from the pupil premium funding formula.
With a 60 per cent reduction in capital funding over the next four years, it is unsurprising that headteachers responding to the survey thought that expenditure on buildings and grounds would be most greatly impacted by the Spending Review announcement. The other areas they thought would be heavily affected were extended school provision, one-to-one tuition and sixth forms. It is also clear that some schools will be forced to reduce their workforce, particularly support staff, in an attempt to balance their books. (In England, the school support staff workforce has grown by over 200,000 in the last 10 years.)
Another interesting topic that emerged from the results was the changing nature of the relationship between schools and the local authority. Although some respondents thought that their relationship with the local authority would change little over the next four years, the majority are expecting local authorities to be short of funds and think this will result in a reduction in the services offered to schools. Several comments provided by headteachers suggest they expect their school will have to pay commercial organisations for many of the services that local authorities have traditionally provided, or that the local authority will charge more for these services. Some also commented that schools will increasingly have to look towards partnerships and federation as a way of achieving the economies of scale that has been provided by the local authority.
We are certainly entering a period of rapid change in the school sector (a sector that is more used to change than most), but despite this, the research makes it clear that headteachers will continue to do whatever they can to raise pupil attainment.