SMARTcurriculum® Update Autumn 1 – Issue 8

SMARTcurriculum® Update – Autumn 1 2020 (Issue 8)

Important changes and new features for the SMARTcurriculum® App:

Analysis of real staff costs
At the request of many users we are now placed to release a major addition to the SMARTcurriculum® Application which will calculate actual staff salaries and oncosts and project salary costs over the following three years. To enable this calculation, an additional table has been added to Global Parameters: ’7. Staff Costs’ shows NIC percentage and threshold, as well as Teacher and Local Government Pension Scheme calculations. 
User Permissions with additional levels of security have been added:
  1. ‘Finance Administration’ will allow office staff to enter the necessary data (without seeing the values)
  2. ‘Finance Confidential’ will allow a user to see the real cost and three-year projections.
Schools will need to decide who will be given access to enter data and view cost projections. The User Administrator will find these additional User Permissions in the data entry hub and can add these to current or additional users. The addition of actual current scale point and the maximum value within a range will allow this to be calculated.
In the background, salary ranges, supplements (TLRs) and additional allowances have been added to provide the base data for your payscale area. These scales allow for institutional customisation given the new freedoms to vary scale values between minimum and maximum amounts. The scales are applied for the projections, allowing for incremental increases and cost of living rises, so the new section in the Global Parameters Table 7 allows for percentage increase projections to be modelled at your discretion. This element will be released on Friday October 16th. 
We are working on charts that will enable modelling of the staffing budgets. Aimed to be released 30th October.
Global Parameters Expenditure Table 
The Expenditure table now reflects cost centre codes as described in the Common Financial Reporting Standards 2020.
Feedback always appreciated!
If you have any other ideas or priorities for development please comment below. If you would like to join our SMARTcurriculum App Developers Group to drive innovations that support you best, please tell us at
Items for future release
Dashboard update – providing a proportional comparison between the number of teaching hours bought and support hours bought
Additional charts and tables within the finance analysis section now that the income and expenditure input tables reflect the CFR reporting standards we are able to add further analysis of the financial data relative to its use in curriculum provision. 
6Year rolling staffing plan – many schools have changing roll numbers and need to plan ahead. This is a feature we used in previous spreadsheetbased curriculum reviews and will be building into the functionality. 
School Group dashboard – we continue to structure the SMARTcurriculum Application to add a fully functional school group comparison module. Many of the developments above are on the road-map to that goal. We will keep you posted as to the progress and likely release date. 

Webinar invitations

Our next webinars to support and develop your use of the SMARTcurriculum® App are listed below. These are exclusively for users, so you will need to use the code emailed to you in order to view and book in Eventbrite. Contact Nicky on if you have not received your code or would like a reminder. 
Thursday October 15th,  17:00–18:00
There is a gap between the educational perspective on ICFP and its impact on curriculum and staffing and the perspective of governors and business leaders. Chris will show how the SMARTcurriculum® method engages various stakeholders in useful dialogue and how it can be turned into powerful conversations about educational purpose and vision.
Wednesday November 11th, 16:30–17:30
In this webinar SMARTcurriculum® App creator Chris Jones will cover using the SMARTcurriculum® App to measure and maintain support staff activities alongside taught curriculum planning. Enables you to define support provision types and how they are distributed across the year groups. Explore how effective they are, relative to the taught curriculum. Powerful use of the charts in the App to support opening a conversation with different stakeholders. 
Wednesday December 9th, 15:00–16:00
Forward plan for next academic year. You will either be rolling on and adapting for pupil roll changes or considering a complete restructure of the curriculum and its impact on your current staff. Chris Jones will cover how to use the SMARTcurriculum® App’s modelling capabilities to support both of these processes.
Kind regards

SMARTcurriculum® Update Issue 7 Summer 2

SMARTcurriculum® Update Issue 7

The latest improvements and additions to the SMARTcurriculum® App are:

Strategic Governance Questions

Following the work that we have done with a number of organisations to engage governors in the application of ICFP, we have added a section containing pre-entered strategic questions to the report.

This allows governors to ask questions for clarity and understanding – and allows space for education and finance leaders to answer with their strategies. There is also a free-text ability whereby stakeholders can add additional questions and responses. All questions and answers can be edited and saved in the App to form part of the final report (and are included in the PDF for print versions). Used well, these questions form the basis of a very powerful conversation – bringing together key stakeholders who traditionally often have very different perspectives of ICFP and their impact on the school – and will result in a common understanding and shared purpose. 

Education Support Provision Chart

Support by Year
Support y Type

To increase the value of collecting data about support provision in the same way that we represent the taught curriculum, we have responded to requests in representing these provisions by adding two charts to the curriculum dimension.

The first represents the support provision by year group; the second by proportion of the whole. These two charts sit below the charts for Curriculum Enhancement by Year, Pupil Teacher Ratio, and Pupil Numbers, giving a powerful image of how support staff and teaching staff are deployed to educate your children.

Pupil Numbers

Within the data entry hub we have added to the Student Numbers table the ability to represent the numbers of SEN and EHCP pupils within each year group. This data is now shown in the Pupil Numbers charts. You are encouraged to go back to your current live model and enter this data.

Curriculum Model Improvements

We have added a feature to the curriculum model, where moving the mouse over the body of the curriculum model reveals a dialogue box giving the name of the subject coded on the table. 

Internet Explorer Issues

Following the announcements from Microsoft of their intention to no longer support Internet Explorer – and special notice from Microsoft in February 2019 for users to stop using IE – we are aware that there a number of schools still using the product and that the quality of the SMARTcurriculum® experience is significantly reduced.

We have put time into ensuring that the visual experience is what you would expect from SMARTcurriculum®. However, please be aware that we do not advise continued use of the product on this platform because of the significant impact on rendering of the charts. We will be looking at whatever can be achieved to increase the processing speeds within the App, recognising that some schools currently have no choice but to use IE, but this cannot be sustain indefinitely. The App is best used on the Google Chrome platform. The experience on Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari, although visually less animated, is equally functional. 

Items for future release
Admin staff charts – additional analysis and more detail about support and administration staff.
Add staff cost detail – currently we are working from budget values. We will be adding actual cost analysis to compare to your budgeted amounts. We will be adding a feature so that you can predict actual costs of changes within analyses and compare budget against the actual amounts.
School Group calculator – many school governing bodies have expressed a need for a simple school group size calculator, so we will be adding a feature to calculate the school group size and indicate appropriate leadership point ranges.
6 Year rolling plan – many schools have changing roll numbers and need to plan ahead. This is a feature we used in previous spreadsheet-based curriculum reviews and will be building into the functionality.
School Group dashboard – we continue to structure the SMARTcurriculum® App to add a fully functional school group comparison module. Many of the developments above are on the road-map to that goal. We will keep you posted as to progress and the likely release date.

If you have other ideas or priorities for development please comment below.

If you would like to join our SMARTcurriculum® App Developers’ Group to drive innovations that support you best, please comment below or tell us on

Webinar invitation

Our next webinar to support and develop your use of the SMARTcurriculum® App is:


Bringing together differing perspectives of governors, educational leaders and school business leaders on ICFP to create shared purpose

There is a clear gap between the educational perspective on ICFP and its impact on curriculum and staffing and the perspective of governors and business leaders. In this webinar we will show how the SMARTcurriculum® method engages the various stakeholders in useful dialogue and how it can be turned into powerful conversations about educational purpose and vision.

This webinar is free and will last approximately 50 minutes, plus up to 10 minutes afterwards for Q&A/school specific advice from chief executive and SMARTcurriculum® App developer, Chris Jones.

Please choose your preferred session and follow the link to book at Eventbrite:

Tuesday 23rd June 4.30-5.30pm

Friday 26th June 12.00-1.00pm

We hope to see you there!

What will be normal?

So much change within the passing of weeks; the use of ‘unprecedented times’ has been over-used perhaps but we are certainly in unusual times and only time will tell its long term impact.

Do you remember the video that did the rounds in the early part of the new millennium ‘Shift Happens?’ If ever we needed an illustration of how shift happens quickly then looking onto the education world over the last month would be a fine example. Even in this example it has changed significantly over a relatively short period. Just to think that Facebook, Twitter were forming and many of the new social media platforms did not exist!

Online learning, MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses have been with us for some years (first introduced in 2008 with the MIT OpenCourseware project, but they have not made large impact on schooling in the UK or certainly not as much as their potential could achieve. Zoom, MSTeams, GoToMeetings, Google Hangouts, even Google classroom have not made a major impact, although some exploration by the interested and innovative teachers has been seen.

The proprietary software that many schools have seen as optional extras to ‘proper face-to-face education’ have all of a sudden become the major resource for delivery and many teachers have up-skilled rapidly to be able to share lesson material online so that during the necessary social distancing, learning can be prompted, resourced and maintained.

Concern over the disadvantage now faced by learners who do not have internet access at home is suddenly to be resourced by government grant paying for tablets, laptops and even routers to level the playing field. Link to FEWeek article 19/04/2020

Many who have been offering these types of learning experiences over time with fledgling software and resources may have now found themselves on the front foot, leading the way into an unknown world, but the playing field will now level quickly.

My thought is now turning to what will be the long-term impact? How will we turn these learning experiences to great advantage and what comes next in the journey of education?

Sir Ken Robinson has talked recently in his online vlog about a movement to consider and influence what this ‘new normal’ for our thinking about education could look like. In his case he draws parallels with the need to change out thinking and behaviour in terms of the changing environmental conditions and the global warming crisis having parallels with the need to change our thinking and behaviours in regard to education. If you wish to engage with the trusted education thinker (link) ( and the children focused learning platform with a difference (link) ( Links to Sir Ken’s blog site in ‘Further investigation’ below.

In our work in school efficiency and budget realignment reviews we consider how the school budget spending benefits curriculum delivery and and looks at how this could be reoriented to achieve different objectives. One of the most significant questions I have been asked this year during one major school review was from a headteacher who asked, “now that I have identified savings in the structure of the school”, it was to be around £1.6M over three years, “what am I going to do with the funds I now have?” You may think that this is a odd question, however that leader is not the first to ask that and probably wont be the last. The issue is that we have become so fixed in our thinking and practices that we are not used to rethinking the potential. But are now we are in a position where we might need to rethink? So what would you do?

One school has committed to a strategy of staffing classes differently from previous practice. The result is that resources are now available to support the learning with tablets for all and online resources more appropriate to the learners needs but this is only possible as the budget priorities are reconsidered in both these cases not by receiving more money.

But lets go further than that. Now that these online resources are available how will these impact the capacity for learning and development. The curation of knowledge through the use of Wikis and collaborative work spaces, where learners can collate their research and knowledge. The idea of creating timelines for literary work to show contextual study of time for when the book was written and when the book was set is an example of how learning might be experienced differently.

Still further, how we can use the technology to support the study of programmes where we don’t have resident teachers or courses to compliment programmes in school. The recent BBC series on ‘The Learning Revolution’ suggests that the majority of learning in years to come will be resourced online changing the purpose of the adult in the room, this may be a projection too far at the moment but some way along the path maybe where we are at now.

The potential to draw from existing online programmes for example Udemy, Linkedin Learning, TED, iTunes U and the likes of Code-school, Duolingo and many other specific subject courses may well form a growing proportion of the offer that our schools are able to utilise. This is a very different way of thinking about schooling. A recent study of the Finnish school system suggests that they are moving away from taught lessons completely allowing students to drive their education using online resources and a methodology not unlike the Montessori schools prevalent in the UK at primary stage and very much a figure of the Dutch secondary system.

The pathways are ahead of us, the routes may be many and various, the destination may be unclear and ill-defined. What I heard from a colleague at the Creative bravery Festival based in Scotland but internationally recently, “stop getting ready, start getting going” in short stop planning and get started. Maybe that is a word of wisdom for the moment. Its time to make steps to make change.

Get in touch or comment below,

Further investigation.

Sir Ken Robinson’s blog site, link. details will become evident over the Summer of 2020

Hello Genius provides children with unique learning experiences which help reveal their individuality and helps parents engage with their children in new and exciting ways. Hello Genius will launch in the Summer of 2020.

Creative Bravery Festival 2020, link.

Population Design

Population Design

In this technical blog we will look at the language and principles of designing populations within schools. I will begin by defining the terms used then explore the population structures that are used and consider some of the structural implications of each method. This is not a definitive guide but it will give a taste of what decisions need to be considered related to the size of your school.

How we describe populations

When considering the school population organisation it is easy to forget that when the young people walk through the gates in the morning that they are conditioned to go to rooms, halls and gyms with familiar groups of learners, often without thought or effort. How we construct these groups takes careful consideration and understanding to achieve the goals intended. We construct populations within our schools for specific purposes, whether to speak to learners en masse or to teach them. These populations have names embedded in our language, but over 35 years of being involved in educational institutions rarely I have rarely seen them defined, discussed, or evaluated apart from fleetingly on timetabling courses, but they have wider application and importance than just for timetablers. First we must outline the terms so we are clear what we mean.

Key Stage, Year, Band, Stream, House, Class, Group, Set, Form, Tutor. These are all educational terms to describe organisational groups of learners. Some of the words in the list will have specific meaning within the context you know, some of them will have immediately prompted a negative reaction. We have all experienced them in some form during our time within the school system, unless you were home schooled. What I would like to do it simply explore a little of what they mean and why they are significant in the organisation of schools.

Why ‘Population Design?’ Well this is the essence of what we do within all schools – we design the various arrangement of learners for specific purposes, it is the art of designing the orientation of learners for the best effect. Sadly, it is often left to chance (I have even seen it done with a list and a pin!), left to people who have no idea of the impact of the groups they create on teaching and learning or simply ignored and lists of names created are simple the alphabetical list. Others, spend hours pouring over lists of names to get the right mix orientation and ability range for the ‘perfect group’ all of this is about population design, the purposeful organisation of learners into groups.

Defining terms

Lets just offer a short definition of each of the terms so you are clear what I mean by them as the language is often confused between organisations.

Basic concepts of population design.
  • School- The organisation of a group of learners who fall into a range of key stages or Year Groups. These may be described as: Primary (R-Y6), Infant (R-Y2), Junior (Y3-Y6), Lower (R-Y4), Middle (Y5-Y8), Upper (Y9-Y13), Secondary (Y7-Y11/13), Sixth Form (Y12-Y13), UTC (Y10-Y13). There are others but these are the most typical.
  • Key Stage- the national curriculum term for groups of years into phases of learning . The UK system uses 5 key stages covering the years from reception to Year 13.
    • Key Stage 1- Reception to Year 2
    • Key Stage 2- Year 3 to Year 6
    • Key Stage 3- Year 7 to Year 9
    • Key Stage 4- Year 10 and 11
    • Key Stage 5- Year 12 and 13
  • Year Group- the single group of learners who’s birthdays fall between September 1st and August 31st, also referred to as an ‘Academic Year.’
  • Band- the sub-division of a Year Group into mutually exclusive sub-sets of learners. Sometimes referred to as ‘schools within schools.’
  • Stream-the sub-division of Year Groups into bands which have a specific orientation into ability ranges. These often offer significantly different curriculum structures and destination potential and may well be formed based on prior attainment evaluation.
  • House- the organisation of learners from across all available Year Groups into ‘vertically’ oriented populations.
  • Class- The generic term for the sub-division of a band into a number of teaching classes, typically each to have a population of around 30 learners. Sometimes linked to the Form or Tutor Group by nature of the fact that the Form Grouping is the basis for the organisation of the subject teaching. For example the Music teaching may be delivered to a class whose population is the same as the Form Group.
  • Group- Very similar to the description of a Class and often interchanged. Often the terminology refers to bands that are organised into different groupings than the Class to enable different social mixes across the curriculum delivery. The make up of these populations are often described as ‘mixed ability’ where the range prior attainment of learners is distributed across a frame of groups.
  • Set- These are groups that are designed similarly to the definition of the group except that they are structured with very specific ranges of prior attainment. Typical language you will hear will be ‘top set’, ‘bottom set’ where learners have been linearly arranged for the highest prior attainment to be together in the first group and the lowest prior attainment in the last group in the frame.
  • Form- Often seen as the social group as a subdivision of the Year Group. Often the basis of social identity with a Form Tutor who will get to know the learners away from the relationship with the class teachers who will focus on the attendance and behaviour, achievement and discipline of the learners in their journey through the school. In some schools this is referred to as the ‘Tutor Group.’ This organisational format is completely mutually exclusive to the organisational populations above. The fact that a learner is in one Form Group does not mean they have to be in any Band, Class or Set. The only reason for there to be any link would be if the Form Group has a specific time together within the teaching timetable, otherwise they are completely separate.
  • Block- an organisational frame where classes of one subject or multiple subjects are taught together so that they may be ‘set’, i.e. that each class in the block may have a specific population design, ability, prior attainment, gender or other agreed parameter, or organised into individual subject choices, i.e. ‘option blocks.’

The two forms of blocks illustrated in single subject and multi disciplinary modes.

  • Linear frame- an organisational frame where classes of multiple subjects are organised together so that the population of each subject class (horizontal line) is common across the subjects, i.e. history, geography, religious education and citizenship are all taught with the same population design, the same group of learners. In many schools these are mixed ability groupings, socially constructed grouping, e.g. previous school ‘friendship groups,’ or, in some cases, they will be streamed to a high middle and low ability population.

The above arrangement of linear block shows a single group of subjects formed into three class where their populations are common across the frame. The learners stay together for Art, Computing, Drama, French, Geography, German, History, Music and Personal development.

This arrangement of multiple subjects into two frames are derived from 4-class populations. In this case the population design can be different between the two linear frames. One population in the ‘Linear 1’ frame and another in the ‘Linear 2’ frame.

Vertical- this term is used to describe any population that contains learners derived from multiple year groups. Typically, all of the above designations can be designed with vertical populations with houses, tutor groups or forms being the most common. Generally, when these exist outside the timetable cycle they are used to enhance the social cohesion of a school or create a specific identity. However, arrangements for specific purposes can be designed. For example, a school with a very small roll might teach two year groups together to make the class delivery more efficient. A small village primary school might teach Y1 and Y2, Y3 and Y4, Y5 and Y6 in three classes, a small secondary school might teach Y10 and Y11 together to be able to offer a range of options with classes rotating year on year, both real examples of vertical arrangements.

Group level population design

Class level population design

The thorny subject of setting is one that will remain debated as to its real impact but the effect on population design is significant. Within a band we may assume a wide range of ability, the ideal of setting is to reduce the range of ability within a single class/group, The purpose being to enable teachers to focus specific deliver at a smaller range of learners. However, research would suggest that from a learners perspective this only advantages the higher performing learners, a more ideal method might be to enable learners to see and experience their peers engaging at a higher level than they are. This argument might, at the extreme, encourage the organisation of class populations all to fully mixed ability groupings, as illustrated above on the right of the diagrams. However, another approach is to create group populations where learners are able to experience learning above their current demonstrated ability without exposure to the ‘unattainable extreme,’ teachers are able to focus learning on a narrower range of learning than full range mixed ability populations demands. We refer to this population design as ‘Strands’, illustrated above in the centre section. The essence being to to expose learners to learning at a hi than they are currently working at while allowing some streamlining of the mixed ability structures. This process demands a high degree of sophistication in the population design of the classes within a band.

Further reading:

Population design of classes considered within the Education Endowment Foundation Teacher Toolkit.

  • Setting and streaming, link. Negative impact for low cost.
  • Reducing class size, link. Moderate impact for high cost.
  • Within class attainment grouping, link. Moderate impact for very low cost.

Organisation level population design

Single band

School ApplicationSecondary: Up to 150 learners (5 fe)
Primary: Any
Maximum team size 5 specialists

In schools where the year group population is at or below 150, or 5 forms of entry (5fe), it does not normally require sub-division, the use of bands becomes superfluous, the year is the band. In this case all blocks and frameworks for curriculum delivery normally contain the whole year group population so the design of each curriculum element will be mutually exclusive and can have its own rationale. This variation is helpful in many schools to create some community cohesion, learners get to work with other learners. Leaders often express concern about populations that stay the same across the timetable cycle where tensions arise and there is no alternative population experience.

Primary schools

Typically primary schools are structured around this single band model where all classes are in one organisational framework. If the school organises core subjects into sets, for specific teaching purposes, blocking may be used. Learners may have their maths lessons at the same time but not with their normal class, they could be oriented differently for an hour or two taught by a different teacher than their normal class teacher- the population is redesigned for this purpose.

Secondary schools

In small secondary schools each year group is a single band design. Using the 120 4fe example, it would mean that a block of subjects will require four specialist teachers, for example in Maths, English and Science. Each block population may be organised differently, a learner being in group 1 for English, group 2 for maths and group 4 for Science, each block having specific and maybe different rationale for their population designs.

Single population system.

Double band

School ApplicationSecondary: Between 150 learners (5 fe) and 270 learners (9 fe)
Primary: Any
Maximum team size 5 specialists

The next step is when to divide the population? When is it that the structure needs to respond to the demand of specialist subject blocks becomes more than the supply with allow. Double band populations become inevitable when the school has a year group population at or above 180. It is a blurred line and many criteria will impact the decision schools make but the decision to sub divide a year group into two mutually exclusive populations may be at 150 but more typically at 180 and above. For organisations where the roll is set by a PAN which is not divisible by 30 will have many challenges to resolve in terms of efficiency over the balance of the year group numbers. It should be noted that there is no assumption that the two bands created need to be symmetrical in size, obviously a 180 pupil, 6fe, school will easily divide into a symmetrical 90 learners in two bands, but it is quite possible to divide into an asymmetrical arrangement of 120/60, 110/70, 100/80 for whatever reason that can be constructed.

Just to briefly consider the rationale for the different decisions on the division of populations, the main drivers must be equity of delivery and efficiency in the structure. Firstly, it would be difficult to create a banding structure where one population had a significantly different experience than the other without good educational reason. Secondly, there is the question of efficiency. Some structures will have in-built inefficiency simply by means of the number of learners and the sub-divisions that are possible.

Illustrated in the table below is an example of the decision to divide a year group into two populations, the resulting class populations are illustrated against each sub-division. Initially most schools will simply divide in half but you will see in this case that this has an additional cost within Design Technology where class sizes are normally reduced. The most efficient structure is actually the 120/60 division, but this will present the challenge of requiring the existence of 6 Design Technology teachers. A resolution of this might be a further sub-division of the larger population to make two blocks of 3 groups.

Band PopulationsCore and foundation subject Blocks (maximum class size 30)Design and Technology Blocks (optimum class size 20)
3 groups of 30
3 groups of 30
[6 groups]
5 groups of 18
5 groups of 18
[10 groups]
4 groups of 30
2 groups of 30
[6 groups]
6 groups of 20
3 groups of 20
[9 groups]
4 groups of 27.5
3 groups of 23.3
[7 groups]
6 groups of 18.3
4 groups of 17.5
[10 groups]
4 groups of 25
3 groups of 26.6
[7 groups]
5 groups of 20
4 groups of 20
[9 groups]
Comparison of band population designs for a school of 180 (6fe)

The wider impact of this type of decision to sub-divide a year group into two populations is seen most significantly when there are an odd number of forms of entry. We have considered above that this population design impact with 180 learners (6fe), but consider also where the decision is to divide the population of 150 (5fe) 90/60 not 75/75, 210 (7fe) 120/90 not 105/105, 270 (9fe) 150/120 not 135/135. All of the symmetrical sub-divisions have significant efficiency (and so cost) implications in delivery.

I have discussed the two main drivers being the equity of delivery and inbuilt inefficiency. Another aspect to consider will be the mobility of learners. This considers where there is the potential to change the populations at a micro level (moving learners between groups) and the capacity to do this within the number of groups available. This is where the definitions and understanding of the populations designs begins to make practical impact. If you use setting and there are only two classes in a band- you only have two organisational groups to place learners- this may be too restrictive for some.

Single band system: within each block/frame learners can be moved to other classed so mobility is high.
Symmetrical double band system: within each band learners can be moved to other classes so mobility is equal to the single block system. Learners are not usually moved between bands, but they can be.
Asymmetrical double band system: within each band learners can be moved to other classes but choices are reduced in the smaller band so mobility is unequal. Learners can be moved between bands, however the population in the lower band is at maximum so mobility is significantly reduced.

Triple band

School ApplicationSecondary: Between 270 learners (9 fe) and 450 learners (15 fe)
Primary: n/a
Maximum team size5 specialists

If we consider larger schools there is a significant factor that will impact the logistical delivery of subjects. The issue is the number of specialist teachers available to deliver the single subject blocks.

Large school, two population example.

The above diagram requires significant teams to be available in blocks that may have significant impact on deliverable programmes. It may be that it is fine for core subjects as they will be larger teams in schools of this size. However, it may be more of a challenge to have modern foreign language specialists available together in this way or for there to be sufficient Physical Education capacity in changing rooms for 180 learners or gym, sports hall or outdoor facilities (especially in Winter months) for this quantity of learners.

Large school ,three population example.

In the above example the same large school has reduced the team sizes by dividing to a three band population system. It is the equivalent of organising three small schools operating in a single building.

When we consider these larger schools the opportunity for student mobility is secured, team delivery methodology enables the timetabling principle of ‘the right teacher, with the right group at the right time’ because it allows the capacity related to the larger scale. Below the table provides some view of the capacity required of these larger schools. The threshold where the decision to move to three bands is clearly possible at 270 learners (9fe), there is clearly the capacity to move to 3 bands at 240 learners (8fe), however, it will add efficiency challenges because we are dividing the whole into populations of 80. The challenge will be within the core and foundations subject groups where 3 classes of 26.7 covers a significant proportion of the curriculum model.

Year PopulationsBand PopulationsCore and foundation subject Blocks (maximum class size 30)Design and Technology Blocks (optimum class size 20)
3 groups of 30
3 groups of 30
3 groups of 30
[9 groups]
5 groups of 18
5 groups of 18
5 groups of 18
[15 groups]
4 groups of 30
3 groups of 30
3 groups of 30
[10 groups]
6 groups of 20
5 groups of 18
5 groups of 18
[16 groups]
4 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
2 groups of 30
[10 groups]
6 groups of 20
6 groups of 20
3 groups of 20
[15 groups]
120 120
4 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
3 groups of 30
[11 groups]
6 groups of 20
6 groups of 20
5 groups of 18
[17 groups]
(12 fe)
4 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
[12 groups]
6 groups of 20
6 groups of 20
6 groups of 20
[18 groups]
5 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
[13 groups]
8 groups of 18.75
6 groups of 20
6 groups of 20
[20 groups]
5 groups of 30
5 groups of 30
4 groups of 30
[14 groups]
8 groups of 18.75
8 groups of 18.75
6 groups of 20
[22 groups]
5 groups of 30
5 groups of 30
5 groups of 30
[15 groups]
8 groups of 18.75
8 groups of 18.75
8 groups of 18.75
[24 groups]
Comparison of band population designs for large schools of 270 (9fe) and over

We will not explore any additional versions of population modelling because all will be a derivation of what we have described above. Any population can be sub-divided into smaller populations for reasons that will be particular to any institution. The impact of this sub-division will be to reduce student mobility between groups, the three structures we have exemplified covers all of the schools in the UK. As a word of caution I would suggest that a significant aspect to consider when designing your populations is to keep the design as simple as possible, remember the adage KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid!) One of the significant challenges I find when dealing with large schools is where, for very valid reasons the curriculum model ends up with multiple formats, single, double and triple block systems all within one year group.

The first illustration below, Multiple band system 1, is not the most complex we have dealt with but you can see three populations on the left and four to the centre and single populations on the right. This system works within this organisation as it has been acclimatised, however they live with the limitations that it brings in terms of mobility, equity and efficiency, the practices and thinking are embedded and not questioned. When we analyse this we see that there are blocks that can only contain certain learners because the structure dictates. This is the challenge that a simpler system would enable. If you look further in there are some significant efficiency issues created that makes this offer also very costly.

In the second example below, Multiple band system 2, you will see that the double triple combination revolves around PE the need to create the asymmetric is simply a ‘gap filling’ need, the structure creates spaces in the model that have to be filled with a population and the solution is the only way to achieve a logical operational system.

Multiple band system 1
Multiple band system 2


In conclusion, the principles are simple, their application will depend on factors that are not unique to your circumstance but any combination will be specific to your context. Mobility of learners within populations is a key matter for many but the principle concerns will remain to provide the equity and efficiency of provision that ensures curriculum is delivered in the best way that we can provide.

Please feel free to contact us if you need help in shaping your curriculum, contact us by email here.

Returning to School

I will be editing and adding to this article because things are changing quickly and new ideas are suggested daily.

It seems like a long time but its only been 14 days of no ‘live’ school! Yet in that time it seems the world has completely changed. Talk of returning is out there if not a little confused, as the many commentators express an opinion which are many and various. Different ideas are expressed leading to the rumour mill, famous in the education environment, producing many ideas and scenarios.

Having said this you will have no predictions here, just thoughts and ideas of how to face this massive shift back to a ‘new normality.’ A normality that may have to be more agile as the virus watchers suggest that there may be more enforced closures over time to come. If the infections rates hit a second or third peak in the months to come, it seems inevitable that ‘Agile is the new normal.’ There is much talk of the VUCA world, a military term for facing challenging circumstances that are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Whats going on around the world?

Just scanning the news there has been quite a reaction to various countries decisions to send Primary, or Kindergarten, schools back. I share various reported reactions to allow consideration of the different responses from around the globe and the practicality of what they have done.

04/05/2020 The Guardian newspaper is asking for teachers and parents to offer their opinion of the return to school on the 1st June. Respond here.

These leave me with questions that might be worth you considering. Certainly in my coaching work these are the scenarios we are discussing with many schools at the moment.

I can across this video from Sir Ken Robinson and thought it a good pause and great thought provoking message.

Sir Ken Robinson: The Call to Unite

Phased or all in?

The government department tweeted over the weekend that no plans were being considered for returning schools after the Sunday Times article appeared. Various dates have been suggested by press and within the edusphere. My puzzlement is that if ‘immediate’ return is likely then why have the BBC and The Oak National Academy invested so much time and effort in recording and preparing online resources that will only be needed for a short period, I would suggest that we are preparing for something slightly more protracted, or at least resources that may be needed over a longer period of time.

Questions that follow:

These are not intended as criticisms but as questions you may want to respond to and resolve yourselves. The questions have to be read in the context of schools returning only after the national COVID19 data meets the 5 criteria laid out by ministers that the evidence is that there is a significant reduction in cases of the virus.

  • Do specific year groups return together and how do we do it in a way to support social distancing? One suggestion that was featured in the major article is that Year 10 and Year 12 might return first, alongside Primary schools, to allow them to prepare for examinations. Is this workable? Associated to this, there is a suggestion that the external examination period for 2021 might be moved back into July to allow longer time to prepare for the exams after this interruption especially if a second spike in virus contamination numbers hits us later in 2020.
  • How will schools cope with continued self-isolation of teachers and school employees? How are we responding with the use of agency and supply staff to support the return to school? (Refer to the Gates Notes article details below in Further Reading)
  • Is it appropriate to halve classes and spread them around the school building to enforce a degree of social distancing? Is this workable? How practical will it be when larger numbers of learners come back to school?
  • Would it be possible to bring back half the year groups in one week and half in the next and alternate 50% populations so that social distancing can be maintained.
  • Are these the right year groups to concentrate on first? Older learners may be more independent individuals so would it be more appropriate to bring back KS3 learners first and encourage the older learners to engage through online and distance learning resources? How much control will school leaders have of this decision, will they be able to respond within their own contexts.
  • How will we communicate the return programme to parents and stakeholders including transport companies, food and sundry suppliers and the many others who provide for services to our schools?
  • Should all learners come back together? Is this workable if we don’t have all the staff in? How could we make this work?
  • Should we develop plans with contingency arrangements? Plan for all return or staggered return with principles in place and logistics of either scenario.

Ideas about the change

In my conversations with many school leaders these items have come out in the considerations. I include this lovely Mind-map shared with me by a colleague (I would like to credit Amanda Howes for drawing and sharing) It’s an example of how leaders are thinking about the issues related to the return implications.

A Primary MAT leadership team response to returning to school.
  • How will schools deal with the healthy discipline of hand washing?
  • Do schools have the resources to ensure that surfaces are disinfected regularly?
  • Can you alter the cleaner contracts to make it possible for all day cleaning?
  • Have we a plan for dealing with the likely increased bereavement experienced by learners within their families and social groups. We have already heard of schools with learners having experiencing multiple deaths in their families.
  • Schools are good at managing bereavement within the community but this is a whole new experience and should not be under-estimated in terms of impact on the learners.

Allowing time to acclimatise

  • Could staff be given time, before the learners return , to be briefed on impact and the schools short and medium term vision for responding to the impact of this period and the likely months ahead.
  • Could there be time built into the return to acclimatise to this new world. Rather than just heading straight back into lessons plan for time to input to re-establish school social norms (I was avoiding the term ‘rules’ you might note!)
  • Could there be acts of worship or assemblies that focus year groups on the return and some likely changes that they will be dealing with over the next few months. Reassuring and setting some confidence about the future. How will this work when the gathering of large populations will still not be advised?
  • Could there be time to extend break times to allow young people to re-engage with friends and colleagues. They are probably more used to social media connection and means to talk but don’t assume this will have happened across the board.
  • Could there be time for some ‘show and tell’ to respect the learning that has gone on at home, unseen. Don’t ignore what learners have done beyond the set online resources, there may be some nuggets of gold that could be missed!

Learners experience

  • For the new starters in September, many will have experienced induction days over the next term. How can we work to get these learners engaged and involved in the type of sessions that will get them involved in their new communities. This works for primary starters, Yr6 transition and those entering sixth forms. The latter will have been hit by the loss of examinations too and feeling vulnerable. Can we do things that will support and engage them in ways we haven’t thought to in the past: project learning, pre-A level/Technical Award programmes to build confidence and learning for September start.
  • Will there be a need for the traditional Summer examination periods? It may well time to consider other forms of summative assessment practice that are slightly less time consuming that do not simply reinforce what has been missed.
  • Is there a benefit in some form of sports day experience, for example, that will develop the community again and establish order through a different structure other than timetables and social structures?

Integrating some of the new practices

There is a real opportunity to grasp changes that have been put in place in pretty short order for the good of the learning experience. Lesson resources and plans put online quickly, access to proprietary software and online resources have proved their worth and should not be simply laid aside when the ‘proper schooling’ starts again.

Many are beginning to question if this experience will reshape the learning experience and demand that a new confidence in using online and openly available resources will be a new expectation of learning.

I would go further and ask whether this experience opens the door to some deeper and more rounded learning experiences. Many of the online lessons go back to a quite didactic style, where open questioning from lead-in lessons could begin to open, using wikis and collaborative learning opportunities, the chance to get learners curating knowledge and resources they find around subjects they are interested in.

I have heard of history teachers challenged that the language they have heard used and the topics covered in the Oak National Academy lessons are far deeper and challenging than they have expected of learners so the are exploring much deeper and meaningful work than they have thought previously possible and allowing learners to explore subjects more widely and to read around a subject more significantly, what a great impact!

English staff have said that rather than just presenting a text for examination purposes they are now asking learners to develop timelines for when a book was written and when it was set to understand the context and place of the book. Learners developing shared/collaborative timelines in a MSTeams wiki pages or Google classroom wiki to share out the effort and develop different aspects of social history and development. Really powerful and meaningful learning that opens the learner not just to different experiences but real collaborative learning.

There are so many resources and an explosion of possibilities the question that this leaves me with is what will remain in 6 to 12 months of all this effort and rich experiences. Or more to the point how can we capitalise on these brilliant developments in a way that opens the learning experience to a new normal?

Discuss if you are minded, contact us if you want to explore some possibilities. or call on 020370212854.

Further reading:

The journey from generalism to specialism

In considering the purpose of curriculum design methodology I often describe three stages of design in the following way. Initially, learning is generalist in characteristic. What I mean is that all learners experience the same spectrum of disciplines as a foundation for future learning. How long does this stage last? Within the UK system it certainly covers Years 1 to 6, the traditional primary phase, and may extend into Years 7 to 9.

The second stage moves a learner to the personalising stage. The learner has a grasp of who they are as an individual and begins to tailor their intentions for their future. In most schools this happens at the beginning of Key Stage 4 in what has become known as the ‘Options’ or ‘Course Selection’ process. Where this is driven by performance tables there is a factor that is counter-intuitive to the idea of learners making decisions about their futures where the performance structures of schools do not match with their goals, however the system in place in a publicly funded education system should provide a door opening ideal where every learner is able to access engaging, inspiring opportunities they see relevant to their future employment or economic well-being.

The third stag will be a stage that allows a learner to begin to specialise. Traditionally this, in the English education system, happens at the Post 16 stage, after compulsory education has completed. The routes might be to academic education on through the higher education system including university or through an technical route that takes a learner through further education or work related learning into professionally oriented education in a specialist area.

This understanding has one characteristic which is often misrepresented along the journey. The transition points are not just about examination results or ‘careers’ information, advice and guidance. The questions we need to ask are related to how we are preparing learners for these decisions, how are we focusing the learners on the transition points, making good decisions, not just about what courses to study, but who am I and what are my interests and abilities and how am I best preparing myself for my future. Can a child make a decision that can be changed without changing my life-chances or restricting my future qualifications.

These transition points are worth considering carefully, the key transition is KS3 to 4. The KS4 to 5 is well established although still requires equally important preparation. The characteristics of the change are that we are reducing the breadth of curriculum that a learner is covering. One might argue that there is a significant need to maintain a level of generalism all the way through, hence the arguments to maintain literacy and numeracy development for all during Post 16 education and the desire for Universities to maintain a degree of modern foreign language development in the world of a global economic arena. Certainly the place of the International Baccalaureate has established a good understanding of a core delivery that has created a strong reputation within learners who experience this type of learning environment.

I could not pass this element withouth mentioning the issue of the shortened KS3 and the lengthened KS4. The transition here being earlier than the original intentions of the National Curriculum intended. The argument being to provide longer for learners to engage in KS4 programmes and get better results, the evidence is thinin this being effective. One of the isues to consider here is that often this practice is also presented to reduce the number of disciplines available before the KS4 programmes begins to enable learners to reduce subjects that they are beginning to find less relevent to their futures. The truth here is that we are often conflating two intentions, personalising  on the one part with outcome focussed programmes beginning. The actual truth is we do not need to conflate these twp intentions, as long as we have a clear narrative about the intentions and the practice. Recent Ofsted framework realignment (from September 2019) suggests that the disapplication of learners from the ambitions of the National Curriculum is a position that is not acceptable. This opens the door to some creative ideas about elements of the curriculum that can be shaped differently. These might focus on  Creative and Performing Arts, and Technology subjects. The ambitions to deliver beyond the national curriculum might ask the question ‘how can we better prepare our learners for the highest outcomes at KS4’ rather than just how do we cover the GCSE specifications?

The characteristics along the journey from generalism to specialism are many and various, the practice simply opens the conversation about how we are handling this journey for learners. There is clearly no right answer as to when they should happen, and the period of transition may be different in different contexts however the characteristic should be understood and responded to in our management of the learners through this journey to prepare them well for making good decisions about their futures.

Please feel free to contact us if you need help in shaping your curriculum journey, contact us by email here


Mind the Gap – Bridge the Gap

It has taken a while to write again, but was impacted today after many conversations with school leaders to write something to consolidate some thinking. I found myself in a conversation with a MAT CEO and NLE discussing the current issues related to finance and the wider education system, as is common these days.

We live in a VUCA time: volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous, if you hadn’t noticed already. At the end of January Lord Agnew published his School Resource Management Pilot Report (SRMA) talking about the benefits of the efficiency work that he has driven while School System Minister and then, in a cabinet reshuffle, he has moved to the cabinet office. We have yet to see if Baroness Berridge of The Vale of Catmose will continue with the drive. The report was criticised and liked by different camps. Amanda Spielman has garnered criticism because of a recent OFSTED blog suggesting that school leaders would ‘squander’ any additional money if given out in the forthcoming budget. Is this because the word she used was too emotive or because it is simply not true? The SRMA programme continues at a march with the DfE making any new funding initiatives contingent on proof of financial efficiency and compliance with the benchmark measures – all quite understandable, perhaps, within sensible domestic national political use of public finances.

However, I felt my conversation today went to the place that is the real crux of the education system issue. Within the education world, to the educators, the driver is that education is for the good of the learner. What matters is the best we can do for the young of the present to prepare for their futures – this at whatever cost; an altruistic understanding. Within the business world the key is efficiency – the best we can get for the least investment. Achieving the most with the least outlay; the ratio of output to input within any system. The educator and the business leader narratives and purposes are apparently opposed and therein lies a difficulty.

The two extremes of the narrative – both with a role to play.

The two bookends: high purpose apparently at odds with efficiency in a period of less abundance. Nationally we now have qualified SRMAs on the one side, with the objective of measuring outcomes (performance measures) against input (finances), and on the other the educators, often NLEs and LLEs (National/Local Leaders of Education), charged by commission to support the educational improvement of institutions within the system that are ‘struggling’; focusing on the success of learners, many of whom have to overcome society’s worst excesses and failings to achieve it.

These two leaders work with different groups of people: the NLE with school education leaders and the SRMAs with School Business Leaders and they often speak completely different languages and even, sadly, often mistrust or at least struggling to understand the other. Too frequently there remains a gap and nothing to join them. The result is some very alarming stories of suggestions made to be more efficient that I will not recite here again, but which help no one to achieve better performance or efficiency in most cases.

The more I work with schools, Trusts and educational focused organisations the more I am convinced that the only way ahead is to develop a more shared narrative for the business and education leaders (also to include governance to be perfectly straight-forward!). A shared understanding of what matters and what makes a difference and the ability to talk these processes through beyond what have become blunt instruments in the form of metrics is crucial. When I discussed the ‘The Magnificent Seven’, the seven metrics used within the ICFP framework, I illustrated that the measures alone do not resolve the educational process. When we consider the methodologies behind ICFP we know that the metrics can, and do, lead to different answers; so wielding a target figure around will often be meaningless to a context-specific issue. What we need is a shared narrative, a way to discuss the complex issues related to setting up and maintaining a successful school within budget and within a whole range of diverse contexts across the country.

Finding the pieces that fit is the role of SMARTcurriculum®

SMARTcurriculum® was designed to do exactly this – not the presuppose any structural decision, but to provide a framework for business leaders and educators to work together and achieve what we all want: the best education possible with the resources we have. This means finding opportunities for resources to be used to the best effect within a complex range of decisions. So it’s not about getting rid of teaching assistants, or making the SENCo teach more or removing subjects from the timetable; it’s about seeing how the elements work together to form a narrative that is focused on best outcomes and best opportunities. It is also not simply about the subjects that get the best results – although all of these features matter.

I was asked the other day by a head who had been through the process with us, ‘once I’ve saved this money what can I do with it?’ My response was that saving money was not our main purpose (although in fairness it may have been the reason that the relationship began!). The purpose was to empower the leadership team, business leaders and education leaders, to make informed and evidence-based decisions about how best to resource the curriculum for the goals and needs of the learners they had. They needed to invest in IT resources but could not see how to achieve it. What was achieved was a £350k saving each year for 3 years and sufficient funds to enable specific resources to be funded, as well as a deficit recovered.

What we need is a far more informed conversation between the specialist professionals within the system. Business and education leaders must:

  1. Develop a shared vocabulary to discuss curriculum development beyond pure metrics, so that we are focused on the same things.
  2. Engage in a conversation about core purpose and goals to shape the needs and imperatives that are to be resourced and have an understanding of good educational evidence of what is effective.
  3. Use this shared narrative to empower the decision making processes as resources become all the more accountable and scarce.
  4. Prove that all three of the above matter in the education of our learners and that vested interests and goal-scoring pecking orders do not matter to the genuine purpose of educating our future society members.
SMARTcurriculum helps to bridge the gap between good business and good education

SMARTcurriculum® is designed to give visual representation of this narrative. Measurements and metrics are included as they are required but the formation of the dashboards are simply to open and maintain the conversations about what works, what doesn’t work and what makes a difference.

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CLFP Curriculum Curriculum design Curriculum Leadership effective efficiency efficient Enterprise Enterprise Education ethical generalism governance ICFP learners MAT Metrics new normal personalisation progress mindset Return to school School Business Leaders shared narrative shared understanding SMARTcurriculum practice community SMARTcurriculum® specialism SRMA staffing technical advice timetabling

Enterprise Education


Enterprise is about purposeful action. The dictionaries define it as boldness or a readiness in any undertaking; an adventurous spirit; ingenuity. Enterprise, and therefore enterprise education, has a wider application than limiting it within a popular perception of developing a company to be focused on earning money.

This ‘business only’ view of enterprise education has skewed the common understanding of an enterprise or the entrepreneur to a business person building an organisation focused on making money. However, enterprise is undertaken by any individual or any team to achieve a described goal. Not to be confused with innovation, which is an act of bringing together spheres of knowledge or understanding in new or novel ways to achieve something that has not been achieved before. Many enterprises involve innovations, although not exclusively.

In considering enterprise education, I believe that it should include a number of dimensions that reflect the full range of purposeful human activity to focus on a whole range of enterprising endeavour rather than just creating items or services for monetary return. The purpose of many actions may not involve the exchange of money at all but are undertaken for a wider purpose or intention. Let us also be clear that any such wider view of enterprise, or defined purpose, does not assume they are done for free and will not involve the exchange of money. It simply accepts that profit is not the primary purpose and understands that as they are completed there will be a cost wherever that resource comes from. I emphasise that inevitably there may be costs involved in any activities completion: a personal development, community benefit, an environmental protection concern or enhancement, a project about social cohesion and enrichment are all prime and important purposes, that will cost but are not driven by a profit motive and are equally important.
In developing a framework for enterprise education I suggest that a way to communicate this breadth of purposes is within 6 dimensions, you may suggest more but these are where you may begin. Within this framework enterprise can be considered with tangible effect in a broader mindset than simply as ‘business education.’
The six dimensions that I have described can be articulated as;

  • Social Enterprise
  • Commercial Enterprise 
  • Financial Enterprise
  • Personal Enterprise
  • Creative Enterprise
  • Environmental Enterprise

Each has a specific role and specific purpose.

Six dimensions of enterprise

Commercial Enterprise

Commercial enterprises are those activities that are driven by the goal of creating profit or monetary growth. The creation of items or services that can be sold with the specific purpose of making money for those who own the company. The commonly understood business enterprise project, the purpose is to create wealth.

Social Enterprise

Social or cultural enterprises are actions where the goal is focused on a community or social benefit. For anyone who has operated in the charity world we understand that every charity has to declare its community benefit, to determine why people should make donations to support the purpose. The purpose given gives reasons and accountability for any given money to achieve its aims. In the commercial world a social enterprise bridges a gap between shareholder owned business and charity, they still need to make money but they have a specific social benefit within their reason for existing rather than the purpose of profit for the owners of a company. In terms of the legal entity these can be described as Community Interest Companies (CICs.) In education terms we are teaching that some enterprise is defined by its social purpose rather than monetary purpose. For example, an organisation that has as its labour force made up of those coming out of the criminal justice system, or refugees, their focus on rehabilitation through work rather than simple profit, they need to make money but profit is not the primary driver. The work must still be purposeful, meaningful and also make money to continue to exist.

Financial Enterprise

Financial enterprise focuses on a actions and goals that create financial security and well-being. There is a fine line between Commercial and Financial but the latter has a realm of thoughts that go beyond sale of goods or services. For example, creating a saving or spending plans, creating a budget, managing resources including money in personal or group finances. Buying insurance to protect against loss, borrowing money to purchase a large items and getting security from financial processes. These activities are about money but they are activities that involve a different set purposes, actions, attributes and abilities.

Personal Enterprise

Personal enterprise enables is about purposes that enable an individual to set personal intentions and goals to be the person they desire to be. Setting goals, developing habits, achieving increasing personal performance, personal objectives, determining aspirations and ambitions and working toward them. Actions that enable a person to achieve outcomes that each aspires to. For example, a personal physical training programme to loose or control body weight, a revision plan to achieve a particular grade or level in a test, a training programme to achieve a personal best in a sporting event or be fit enough to be selected for the team. Each is a purpose driven activity that is facilitated by skills, attributes and knowledge that enable the purposes to be achieved.

Creative Enterprise

Creative or aesthetic enterprises are the actions and disciplines that are undertaken to achieve purely creative or aesthetic outcomes. These may be focused on the development of our well-being and senses whether it be sound, sight, smell, touch or taste. For example, the creation of a piece of art or music for the benefit of others to appreciate, experience, or gain emotionally from it. These enterprising acts are often undertaken for their intrinsic value rather than for quantifiable gain.

Environmental Enterprise

Environmental enterprises are actions undertaken for the purpose of the benefit and betterment of the environment. Clearly some might have commercial, social or financial benefit, and so overlap with those above, but this is included to define actions that are focused on the environmental or ecological benefit. For example, a project to save the coral reefs, reduce the plastic in the oceans, enable the reforestation of land across a continent, saving endangered species or reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by increasing renewable energy sources. These are all purposeful actions that have clear goals and intentions, not defined by commercial directives but equally, some will say much more, important.


These six dimensions describe actions and intentions that are all purposeful and define enterprise in a wider context than simply activity to make money. If we understand and define the purpose of an activity there are enterprises that go far beyond the simple commercial mindset that will educate our young people that to be enterprising can have many dimensions and many valuable purposes. You will have seen in presenting it this way that the educational purpose in defining enterprise with a broader remit we are preparing future generations to value the definition of the purpose of actions beyond how much money they make.

Having worked with charity CEOs for the past 20 years I know that there are many, highly skilled and purpose driven people across the world for whom profit is not the prime directive of their vision but are equally enterprising and innovative as those in the commercial sectors. However, enabling us to see, perceive the value their goals and purposes alongside and often above the simplistic commercial view is a responsibility we need to educate future generations for and not leave to chance.

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The three Es of curriculum modelling

Over the past 10 years of reviewing curriculum design, I have tried to make a clear distinction between curriculum design in terms of the elements that make a broad and balanced curriculum, teaching and learning strategies and structural analysis. All are important but each should not be confused with the other. SMARTcurriculum® focuses on is the structural elements that so often prevent the theory and content from being effectively delivered. In discussing the approach I often refer to the ‘Three Es’ of curriculum design, concepts around which all schools are built. Recent experience reinforces this belief across Grammar, Comprehensive, Primary, Secondary, State and Independent sector schools. The education world is amazingly similar in this regard.

Efficient curriculum design concerns the capacity to employ the quantity and quality of staff to deliver a high-quality curriculum, alongside being able to resource it so that learners can get the best out of the process that you take them through given the resource available. The question in the balance is whether it is affordable to increase the number of classes, this reducing the class size, and then have reduced funds to invest in the basic provisions (paper pencils text book) at one extreme and visitors, IT resource, the ‘whizz-bang’ stuff that you would love your learners to have access to at the other.

We seem to be at the moment in a flat spin conversation around the basic provision with schools announcing that they can’t afford pencils and pens and rubbers (the basic provision) where others are exploring some really well invested classrooms. We have to explore where that is possible when the funding proportional to the number of learners. Efficient curriculum design concerns an understanding of how we can resource the classroom to make the experience the best that it can be.

I see again curriculum experts sharing numerous models of delivery. In my humble opinion this conversation really only deals with one dimension of curriculum model design- How many elements fit within the cycle that has been selected? Further analysis is required to really understand the impact for sharing. It is patently obvious that proportional elements and distribution within a 15 lesson cycle (3 periods per day over one week) are vastly different from a 50 lesson cycle (5 periods per day over a 2 week cycle.) The decisions about the proportions of subjects will also vary due to the context of the school, prior attainment of the learners and the nature of the building in which the logistics are to run. What this simple sharing doesn’t consider is the class size decisions being made and the use of teacher time to deliver the plan. It also presupposes a delivery methodology- a lesson name determines what is taught with no capacity for cross discipline planning, if desired or determined. Neither does it respect what I would refer to as ‘Adapted Curriculum’- curriculum that varies through a year dependent on prior attainment. Effectively used by some schools to allow for high prior attainment or low prior attainment and breaks the one size fits all modelling.

Effective curriculum design is to ensure that the outcomes for students, whether that be examinations or purely a more purposeful education process than just outcomes, is effective so that students learn engage and achieve, relative to start points at a high level The classic conversation that is ongoing in many schools that we work with is the high ideal of having a broader balanced curriculum means that they have lots of subjects at key stage 4, but the outcomes don’t reflect the quality of learning. Smaller classes might be achieved because of the breadth provided. But open bucket subjects do not perform well. This is not an effective curriculum.

An ethical curriculum is one that provides within the structures of our state funded education system a curriculum that is right for the children not just right for the performance tables. One example of this are schools that are fitting the subjects that they deliver are just those that are included in the performance tables.

The net effect of this process often is to diminish the creative subjects and the technical subjects in favour of English back subjects but also there is a question of whether children should be doing PE or taking subjects like PSHE which are often squeezed out as they are not seen as achieving exam goals. Is this ethical? it might be right for the school to put the money into exam subjects but is this right for children whose opportunity to learning in a societal situation is then squandered.

I have discussed the three Es of curriculum modelling previously, see the blog post A balance of three where I discussed the necessity to balance these elements to achieve good curriculum modelling.

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Travelling Light?

We all understand the expense of excess baggage is to be carefully avoided when flying. When planning ahead for the return journey, we all consider allowing space in the case for those holiday gift purchases to give our friends and family upon return. So we take it into account when travelling on modern efficiency conscious carriers.

Recently I saw this analogy become clear when discussing staffing profiles with a colleague in running a curriculum and staffing review. This school, like most secondary schools across the country in recent years, has adopted the strategy to ‘over-staff’ core delivery subjects. To be truthful what Headteacher would interview a field of maths or Science teachers to appoint one, discover two that are eminently appointable and not move hell and high water to find some way of appointing both!

I have used this example before, but it stands well here again, the Primary schools with a PAN set at somewhere between a factor of 30, 72 as a common example. The number of classes to be structured into the school’s class model? Is the answer 2 groups of 36 or 3 groups of 24? The former is untenable the latter an similar inevitable excess that costs the school an additional 9.8 teachers on average. (7 classes of 1.4 teachers with an average contact ratio of 76%)

It is only when we start to see the system wide impact that we begin to see the wider system challenges it creates. At an extreme what if every secondary school took on an extra maths teacher? It would require an extra 3200 plus extra maths specialists. Do that in English and Science as well, as I have seen across over 120 primary and secondary SMARTcurriculum®️ reviews over the past two years and we need 10,000 more teachers within the English system.

If this is replicated across the curriculum model design by increasing numbers of classes as a delivery strategy, it does not take long to be looking at more significant numbers of teachers across the system. The impact of this increase; the system becomes unmeasured and focussed on single institution strategies and we suddenly discover the teaching need is something over 25,000 teachers above what is calculated as a basic provision. Is there any surprise that the system is struggling to cope financially or from a teacher supply perspective. Finding specialists, reducing the reliance on temporary staff and reducing the agencies searching for other nationals becomes something of the past? The transfer and introduction fees alone bring stresses to the system, I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve talked of the ‘licence to print money’ created in the current culture by some of the less principled teacher supply agencies!

Equivalent 320 schools of teachers

Within the school I started discussing this post, we postulated that in the local area, known for being one with specific difficultly in finding specialist teaching staff. We were looking at 5-7 FTE extra teachers within their school, so if we looked at the same style across their trust of 5 schools (and it is real because I work with all of them) then upwards of 35 teachers over the curriculum size, allowing for designed in 3 – 8% Curriculum Enhancement! Consider two small trusts in this local area that operate the same practice and could have 50 to 70 over staffed teachers in 10 schools – enough to staff an 11th school! You can argue the over simplification maybe but consider this possibility, in the secondary world, that of the 3200+ schools there could be up to 22,400 excess teachers that is potentially 320 schools worth of teachers available just from this over staffing methodology, my earlier extrapolation was not that far out.

My question?

Is this a strategy we can afford or sustain? I believe not unchecked. I might add a number of school leaders have said to me recently that they have operated this practice over a number of years and it has had absolutely no impact on results but thats another blog!

So what to do?

  • Understand the principle of a basic curriculum provision and how it relates to the primary, secondary and post 16 environment.
  • Be clear about what curriculum enhancment is needed over this amount In the context of each school and hold a rationale as to why it is effective.
  • Carefully manage the staffing profile and appointment strategy.

One of the major benefits of the Academy Trust system freedoms was to have develop efficiencies from group mindset rather than a single school mindset, many are not embedding this into system dynamics.

Staffing profile management and curriculum model design were the main reasons Behind the creation of SMARTcurriculum®️methodology and the online application. Over this next few months we will be introducing management tools to be able to maintain the conversation across a Trust or group of schools with a Group dashboard as well as the ability to compare datasets within a single school to show how the journey is forming.

Our strapline- SMARTcurriculum®️- To understand.

Get in touch to explore for your school or trust, call 02037012854 or

Going against the flow

This week has been a challenging week as we continue to work with schools with SMARTcurriculum®️. There is no doubt that there are some real concerns about the level of funding available for the education of our children, but again I find myself analysing individual schools where there is little real understanding of the structural implications of the curriculum model they are operating by those making decisions. Even though the examples below are secondary schools, the similar applies to Primary phase with slightly different structures.

By way of example, an 8 form entry (240 pupil) secondary school with a small sixth form, some 90 learners across the two years spoke to me this week. In Year 7 the curriculum model allowed for 11 groups across a normal national curriculum subject design. The school was struggling to balance their budget so I talked through the decisions they had made, to work up a strategy to move forward with.

The additional 3 classes in Year 7 was where we began. Taking into account the average teacher allocation for the school was lower than normal and a contact ratio well below 70% these factor s make this a challenging situation. The number of teachers required to teach these 3 extra classes is 1.4 per group, so require 4.2 teachers. The average salary For the school is £52,000 so with on costs the total would be in the order of £275,000 to fund these extra classes.

There are a number of implications these leadership teams are grappling with:

  1. The area of the country is struggling for quality teachers. So there is a real challenge in designing a curriculum knowing that it is likely that a percentage of the curriculum will be delivered by staff who are likely not to be employed, or at best will be agency staff who are more than likely to be more expensive in the long run and will further destabilise the school as their commitment to ‘the cause’ is not what you want it to be
  2. The pressure that this puts on the whole school is finically huge. Consider if this is a model that is replicated across the whole curriculum design, we are now talking over £1m.
  3. Where this is not a pattern across the school what is created is an uncomfortable rhythm to learning, some year groups with larger groups and others with small groups.
  4. The school is struggling to project a balanced budget and to see how to resource the school. Pressure on the quality of experience that the learners are getting is commented on regularly by many stakeholders. Texts need refreshing, white boards and TVs are getting tired and staff resources are in short supply, computer systems are getting dated and need a refresh.

Any school leader will know that the quality of the education provision is improved as investment in the real resources that matter is possible. So I ask the question- why not look at the way the school is put together to ensure the best spending framework?

The following day I had a conversation with another school leader who described that they had been actively reducing class sizes over a period of time, thus increasing the curriculum build size. However, in analysing results over time, had found no discernible improvement in outcomes and they are now struggling to find the quality of staff to fulfil the structures designed but are now unable to invest in new resources and with maximum pressure on the budget to afford the staffing is a constant concern.

So here I find myself moving against to flow, and unapologetically. Where many are demanding the government release more funding for education I find myself asking how we are spending now and whether is it real value for money. Analysing the financial benchmark site I would suggest, particularly in the secondary phase, over 50% of schools are running curriculum that is larger than the pupil population warrants.

Just consider this, if 50% of schools over-size their curriculum then this will generate the need to employ more teachers than the centrally calculated workforce projections would allow and so thus there are less to go around. Keeping curriculum size under control would help the national position in securing well qualified teaching staff who will stay in the profession. And to note we are not talking about the extremes suggested in the press today with classes of 60, breaking the law in early years.

‘Super-size’ class packs in 67 children

Broadclyst school in Devon has a specially built classroom where 67 children are taught simultaneously. Though unions say such class sizes are detrimental to learning, the school’s head teacher insists pupils are offered an “excellent education.” Jim Wileman

I know this is not popular stuff and why it appears I flow in a different direction to the current narrative. Many will argue that all this is penny pinching and increasing the pressure on teachers. You might gather that I do not agree and we have repeated shown that it becomes unsustainable to add the curriculum time these structures produce. However, and more importantly, releasing the sort of funds illustrated above would mean a significant change in the futures of many children’s lives. The kind of value we are referring to in my analysis? A potential multiple £bn across the country, we could do incredible things with that sort of money, and the impact on the shortage of teaching staff would be significant too.

Throughout my career I have found the direction of flow different from my own, and have worked with some brilliant colleagues with whom I have managed to find synergy and significant impact. Whatever your view, it is worth considering the impact of a new look at how we calculate curriculum modelling and staffing structures. I may be flowing in a different direction but the potential of a change is too important not to dip your toe in and see whether the other direction leads to a different destination.

Contact me at if you think its worth a look.


Consider other CJL blog posts related to this subject Pack them in and Return on Investment.

Curriculum Enhancement

Why does Curriculum Enhancement (CE) matter?

Contact Ratios and Pupil Teacher Ratios are familiar to most school leaders as measures of classroom resourcing. At the most simplistic level, given that they have been around for a long time and the problems of funding that are now facing schools, one could ask whether the majority of school leaders can interpret them to run the curriculum effectively?  It is well understood that pupil to teacher ratio works well in the 11-16 environment however, it produces challenging results when applied post-16 because there is a significant difference in class sizes (large number of smaller classes) and students not engaged for 100% of the week, which will impact the average ratio across a school, masking inefficiencies in the 11-16 construction.

In the primary sector the simplistic response is that the number of forms of entry determine the number of classes and, where the Pupil Admission Number (PAN) is not divisible by a factor of 30, problems of construction are inevitable. Also, schools that operate nurseries add the additional difficulty that learners are normally not engaged for whole weeks of learning.

Contact Ratio is an interesting figure to consider. It simply describes the percentage of employed teachers who are facing learners at any point in the timetable cycle. It is impacted by the average amount of time each member of staff is actually teaching, relative to the amount of management, PPA and unassigned time they have. Without a baseline, however, there is no measure of how big the curriculum is relative to the number of children in the school.  So, you could have an over inflated curriculum with small classes where the desired 76% of staff are facing learners works but the staff bill will be too large to sustain. In a school with a sixth form, a large nursery or a difficult PAN, these two measures that are used will be difficult to control to determine turnaround strategies.

Why does SMARTcurriculum champion Curriculum Enhancement as an important measure?

SMARTcurriculum Method is focused on what works, what Curriculum Enhancement does is ask the question; “is the planned curriculum the appropriate size for the number of learners within the institution?” Deeper questioning might ask, “can the planned curriculum respond to fluctuations of falling or increasing roll and mid-term admissions?”. SMARTcurriculum model planning assumes a range of solutions, rather than a fixed answer, and does not presuppose any formal structures. The baseline is calculated from a optimal average class size which uses the principle of higher Pupil Teacher Ratios. Read our previous blog in the class size issue.

The percentage range that results is an indicator of the appropriate size of the curriculum, still the contact ratio is a key indicator of the bought staffing to cover this curriculum, but hopefully you can see that measure of the planned curriculum has more impact than the PTR simply because it works across the key stages with different target  class sizes, rather than an all institution average which can hide difficulties in provision.

How does Curriculum Enhancement differ from headroom?

If ‘headroom’ is considered as the surplus teaching bought to add capacity, then it is not a curriculum structural issue but a staffing and deployment strategy to enable blocking of timetables in a secondary school and the reduction of split class teaching. To meet these strategic objectives, typical levels that we see this staffing headroom to be would be 3-5% in a large school and 5-8% in a small school. This is not a measure that helps in curriculum structural design, it actually presents a risk in future planning. Once staff are employed on permanent teacher contracts they will need to be occupied in future years, so the inevitable process will be to create classes to ensure they are used. This is not a substantive position to maintain unless the institution has a high turn over of staff.

Headroom suggests surplus or additions which provide capacity whereas Curriculum Enhancement is focused on pupil numbers and structural strategies with measurable outcomes that can be evaluated. The encouraged narrative being, “We have put this structure here, to resolve this issue, and it can be measured by this outcome.”

Specifics about Contact Ratio (C)

TP Total number of planned teaching periods within a timetable cycle.

FTE– Total Full-Time Equivalent employed teacher roles (planned and covered if not in post)

C = (TP / FTE) x 100%

Typical values range from 60% to 80%. 60% would be very low and 80% would be rare in modern management structures but not unattainable if desired. An optimum level would be between 76 and 78%.

Contact Ratio is calculated as the proportion of a teacher’s time spent teaching, relative to the maximum possible teaching that any teacher can do. Every person who is qualified to teach has the maximum teacher capacity of 90% of the cycle planned. 10% of their time is given to Planning, Preparation and Assessment according to the Standard Teachers Pay and Conditions document some will have training time if they are an NQT or engaged in learning to teach programmes, others will have agreed management time to run elements of the within their responsibility. The contact ratio is an average of these allowances.

Generally, management time is then given as a proportion of teaching time to allow leaders to undertake leadership activities. The maximum of which will be a headteacher who does not teach.

If all teacher taught 90% of the time, then the number of teachers we would need would be less, as many teachers teach less than their full allocation and then the 90% drops. The stated range of desired contact is 76-78%. How this is distributed across the teaching body is entirely up to the school leadership to structure however achieving this ratio is an important factor in managing a school budget.

The truth is you can have a smaller leadership team with more time to lead, or a larger team with less individual time to lead but spread out more. Whichever you select, what results is that Contact Ratio illustrates the percentage of the staff facing learners at any point in the cycle.

Specifics about Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR)

n– Number of pupils on roll

FTE– Total Full-Time Equivalent employed teacher roles (planned and covered if not in post)


The more teachers we employ the lower the PTR; the fewer teachers employed the higher the PTR. In the modern school there are many strategies employed beyond the traditional one teacher/one class. The question of what the actual capacity of the budget to employ teachers is and where the threshold is, is not deeply examined. The more teachers you have the more professional educators you have in the school (unfortunately that is influenced by the quality of teacher supply around the country) and schools with very large leadership teams relative to the size of the staff, who are given reduced teaching timetables. As we have already said structures that have disproportionate amounts of small classes in specific year groups will mask whole school strategies, and strategic decisions based on a simple ratio can be difficult to justify.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) “Equation of Life” attempts to bring these measures together by making relative comparisons… it does not answer directly the question “Is the curriculum we have created an appropriate or affordable size for the number of children within our school?” It does ask “how many teachers can we afford to buy?” and then designs the curriculum based on this affordability model. What the “equation of life” does do is factor in the relative cost of each teacher so touches the staffing deployment and pay structure that a school has created.

Pupil Teacher Ratio

relates to

Average Teacher Cost / (Revenue available per pupil x Proportion available for teacher expenditure)

relates to

Teacher contact Ratio x Average Class Size

Reference material you might want to review:

ASCL “Equation of Life” by Sam Ellis ASCL Funding Consultant

CST Funding Tool and ICFP Guidance for Executive and Goverance Leaders

DFE Integrated Curriculum and Finance Planning Guidance

Please contact us for more information of SMARTcurriculum and the analysis it can provide or call 0203 701 2854

SMARTcurriculum Updates Autumn 2019

SMARTcurriculum Updates Autumn 2019

After a year of development, we are now entering our second year of licences and those who have been using the app will see some major feature developments that will be released in September 2019. Three features will be the curriculum model feedback, the staff expenditure chart and the staffing analysis.

The Curriculum Model

Consider the impact of class size on the overall curriculum design

Following feedback from users, we have added a feedback feature that compares class size with the target class entered into global parameters. This uses the default size unless you have edited for your own school. The feedback is in the form of red, amber, green indicators. Red will show you have more than one student below the target size, amber within one child of the target size and green more than one child above the target size. The feedback gives you a measure of how the contributing blocks impact the overall average class size. A swathe of green indicates you are well within the target, conversely lots of red show where the challenges in class sizes can be addressed.

Where you have used banding or option blocks the same methodology is applied to those indicators. Again the overall purpose is to give you a measure of where work may need to be done.

If you move the mouse over the cells you will find a comment box with active description and data to understand what this is showing.

Staff Expenditure Charts

Clearer staff expenditure visualisation

Within the Finance tab, many users have asked for more information related to staffing expenditure as a proportion of income. We have redesigned the chart to give much more information on staff spend, per pupil funding and total income.

The charts are dynamic; mouse over any element and explanation comments will appear.

Staffing Analysis – Management Group bought and planned teacher periods.

More sophisticated staff deployment view- subsidiary subjects included.

The updated Staff Deployment chart has been improved to include more than using each teacher’s primary subject. Now included is the ability to allocate any number of periods to subjects two, three and four on the Staffing table in the Data Hub. Users have found it difficult to see how to make up shortfalls in specialist staff where they are drawn from other subject areas. By moving the slider you will show how staff are deployed within the school to cover those shortfalls in teaching periods. The mouse comments provides a pop up that will give you the detail.

Finance Analysis

The updated Cost tab now named Finance. The addition of a Finance Data tab will be further populated with data tables similar to the other Curriculum and Staffing tabs. The data table included has been moved from the Curriculum Data tab and will be added to over coming months with more useful data analysis. The Finance Chart tab has changed with the inclusion of Cost per hour analysis for teaching and support staff

Items to follow

We are working to develop a Group analysis section within this new year which will enable comparison and discussion across a Trust or Group of schools. To enable this we will be working on releases that will lead to this point later in the year.

  • Dataset comparison to enable progress to be monitored over time
  • Group dashboard to be able to report group progress
  • Improved analysis reporting to support
  • Central team analysis
  • Updated ICFP measures and bench-marking
  • Improved data entry processes

Please contact us for more information of SMARTcurriculum and the analysis it can provide or call 0203 701 2854

Academy Ambassadors – Fundamentals of Education

We are so pleased that Frank Green CBE, former Schools Commissioner and MAT CEO, has written a piece for the Academy Ambassadors resources portal describing the importance of Integrated Curriculum and Finance Planning and how SMARTcurriculum has been able to support the Challenger Multi Academy Trust, where he serves as Trust Chair.

Please get in touch to see how we can support your school, Trust or Group of schools with our online ICFP and Curriculum planning tool.

Call 0203 701 2854 or email

​Pack them in?

When we talk about class size it becomes a really contentious issue. Ministers are criticised for an agenda of raising them; Education Endowment Fund (EEF) curate research evidence that suggests that reducing class size is costly and has little impact on outcomes for learners (1); and teachers will say that in certain contexts ‘big’ classes are unmanageable and detrimental to learning. All I have just stated is based on no actual quantity and derives from an ill-defined concept and speaks to an emotionally charged dialogue. Raising or reducing class size from what to what? Is there a baseline from which this comparative conversation has meaning? The press and profession will use these emotive terms and then exemplify extremes, but what matters? What numbers are we actually talking about so what numbers make a difference?

In this SMARTcurriculum blog I am not seeking to raise the educational, pedagogical arguments for the impact of class size on outcomes, simply the efficient use of the funding provided and the assumptions of trying to achieve one goal within a definable constraint. If there were to be a change in policy and the related funding appropriation then the metric could change, but for now the principle stands the current funding assumes a capacity of delivery.

Most Integrated Curriculum Finance Planning (ICFP) systems talk of a benchmark class average of 27 or 28. For ease I am going to use 27 as a start point as it allows a degree of generosity and flexibility, others use 28 which, as you will see, has implications on the structures we design. Why 27 as an average class size across a year group? Class units of 30 are normally how a school is described and constructed in the UK. We use it to inform the ‘Forms of Entry’ for a state school based on units of 30 children, however, this is not a practical number to use across a whole curriculum. Let us illustrate with an example of a Year 7 programme with a 50-period cycle.

46 lessons will be used for the core subjects; English, Maths, Science, Humanities, Languages, Arts, Drama, Music and will normally exist in units of 30, if the school is full. For a subject like Design & Technology based in specialist workshops, food preparation rooms, and textiles rooms will typically be organised into groups of 20 learners. We accept some debate on this as, increasingly, more groups are increased to 23-25, we will illustrate base on 20. The allocation of lessons would be 4 periods in this 50 period cycle.

To calculate the average class size for one class within this year-group. 

((46 x 30) + (4 x 20))/50 = 29.2. (Clearly there is some space to reduce other elements too).

Assuming this year-group is full and the curriculum delivery structure is appropriately planned, then the average class size will be above the average 27 threshold and for this school to be at the level it has the capacity to drop to 28 in the core subject groups. To use the base of average 27 across a whole year group is therefore realistic and respects those schools that manage higher levels of mid-term admissions and mobile populations or have spaces on their roll.

Now, if that is achieved in a year group the number of classes that are planned with an average of 27 or higher will equate to an efficient curriculum. Many example we see here score a negative efficiency score. So we have set out the reason for 27 as the base level for class size calculation, and why some will raise it to 28.

Lets look at the funding principles that now follow this structure;
  • In KS1 and KS2, 27 pupils bring in approximately £81,000 (27 x £3,000) in per-pupil-funding (this will vary across the country unless common funding arrives). If we assume lower than normal Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Pupil and Sports Premium Grant (PPG,SPG), then this can act as a raw figure. To teach the one class we need at least 1.1 teachers (allowing for 10% PPA allowance.)
    • If the average salary for a member of staff is £50,000including employment on-costs, the actual teacher salary would be £55,000. The teacher salary will be out to 68% of the grant income (we are not using on costs in this illustration and we have zeroed the ‘other income’).
    • However, if we have employed a non-teaching headteacher and give other senior staff leadership time the average teacher need to teach the one group will increase, it is more likely that we will employ 1.4 staff for this class and now the salary is £70,000. We have now moved from 68% of the income spent on teachers to 86% spent on teachers.
  • In KS3 and KS4, 27 pupils bring in roughly £100,000 (27 x £3700) in per-pupil-funding. If we assume lower than normal SEN and PPG, then this can act as a raw figure. Again, to teach the one class we need at least 1.1 teachers, allowing for 10% PPA allowance. If the average salary for a member of staff is £50,000 (with employment on costs) the teacher costs would be £55,000. The teacher cost is now 55% of the grant income.
    • Again, if we have employed a non-teaching headteacher and give other senior staff leadership time the average teacher need, to teach the one group, is 1.4 staff members are needed and now the cost rises to £70,000. We have now moved from 55% of the grant income spent on teachers to 70% spent on teachers.
  • In KS5, 17 pupils bring in roughly £85,000 in per pupil funding. If we assume lower than normal SEN and all learners are considered as full time learners with appropriate learning aims, then this can act as a raw figure. To teach the one class we need at least 0.825 teachers, allowing for 10% PPA allowance and the fact that these students are not in class for 100% of the weeks learning time. Again, if the average salary for a member of staff is £50,000 (with employment on costs) the teacher costs would be £41,250.
    • Again, in employing a non-teaching headteacher and other senior staff leadership time the average teacher need, to teach the one group, is 1.05 staff and now the cost is £43,312.
    • You can see here why schools believe that having a sixth from enhances the school budget- and it will, if the class average is 17. The truth is that many schools the average is well below 10. This then becomes a different story; the Sixth form costs the school and becomes a burden.

Clearly in Key Stage 1 there is a maximum of 30 (3) in a class before you need to put a second teacher in the room, that is a legal precedent that is set because the pupil teacher ratio is set at a maximum so that there are not massive class sizes.  Obviously in nursery provision there is a ratio that is set for safeguarding and good teaching of what is a very important stage of education. As an aside, a lot would say now that if we get that bit right and if we could resource that better a lot of the issues that happen later in education would not happen if that was done more effectively.

So, across the education system the 27 optimum average class size and structural 30 principle is what most schools should be built around. We also know that there are different issues in the Post 16 education where it would be very unusual to have classes of 30 or 27. Based on the document from the Department for Education (DfE) on class size projections (2), we generally work on 17 being the optimum for a sixth form group. It can vary between 15 and 17, but 17 is generally the number that most systems look to as the average class size across a sixth form.

Rather than just saying that 27 in a class is what’s normally achieved across a school, there are some variations in how that works in different contexts. Obviously, if a school has a sixth form and there are some smaller classes, the average class size for a school will be smaller. If it is an 11-16 school, it is more possible to get classes with 27 as an average if the school roll is full and it is more possible in middle schools and junior and infant schools because they tend to be built around that class size.

One of the biggest challenges to that process though is local authorities and schools negotiating Pupil Admission Numbers (PANs) that are not established around the units of 30. We have seen recently are Primary schools where their PAN is set at 72, which is not divisible by 27 or 30, and we will discuss this further in a later blog. But simply to ask is that 2 classes of 36 or 3 classes of 24?

The funding comes with an expectation of school class size- stepping away from this basic unit is significantly contributing to the funding issues we are facing in 2019.

Research information to peruse.

1. Reducing Class Size, August 2018, Education Endowment Foundation ‘Teacher toolkit’

2. Class Size and Education in England: evidence report, December 2011, Department for Education DFE RR169.

3. Spring School Census 2019, Infant Class Size Validation, version 1.0, January 2019, Department for Education.

4. Class size does make a difference – but 30 is not a magic number, January 2016, Peter Blatchard, IOE London Blog.

5. ‘What Doesn’t work in Education. The politics of Distraction.’ 2015, John Hattie Melbourne Australia. Pages 10-11

6. Small class sizes for improving student achievement in primary and secondary schools: a systematic review, 2018, Campbell Corporation.

Please contact us for more information of SMARTcurriculum and the analysis it can provide