SMARTcurriculum Blog

In an attempt to define Integrated Curriculum Finance Planning (ICFP), the Department for Education (DFE) originally outlined 7 measures that would make a significant difference in managing an establishment budget. Today this has been extended to 10 planning checks (Link here). You may be familiar with other systems that use a combination of these metrics outlined below. The only one missing from these lists is the curriculum measure that I call Curriculum Enhancement, referred to as ‘Bonus’ or ‘Headroom’ in other narratives. I will walk through enhancement separately but lets take a quick look at these ‘big hitters’ and determine why they matter and discuss what difference they can make:

  • Teacher Contact Ratio – Calculated as the percentage of employed teaching staff facing learners at any point in the planned curriculum cycle. Often expressed as a decimal, the number quoted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and others who have been observing typical contact ratio, is suggested to be optimal at around 0.76 or 76%. Planning, Preparation and Assessment time (PPA) has been factored into this measure. Clearly accounting for PPA alone would generate a higher contact ratio (90%). So this measure includes the level of leadership and management time added to enable the processes of school to be undertaken. The proportion is often increased by surplus teaching time, unallocated time that is ‘bought’ when a good member of staff is found in a recruitment process and you cannot let them out of the door without a signed contract! Clearly the more staff you buy for the curriculum that is planned, the lower the contact ratio. However this measure alone can be deceptive; if the curriculum is too big for the number of learners on roll, the contact ratio will not be a good indicator of efficiency; just a measure of current practice. It might be optimum for any curriculum, but it will still be too expensive for the budget to maintain if the curriculum size is not controlled.
  • Learner (Pupil) Teacher Ratio – The number of learners in the establishment for every teacher employed. Clearly more teaching staff with reduced teaching load will require more teachers to cover the curriculum provision. So the structure of the senior and middle leadership will greatly impact this figure. Again it is a feature that is influenced by a number of factors and does not tell a leader how to manage the delivery mechanisms of any establishment because it can move your attention away from the key business. Its not just about how many staff you have, it is about what they are doing and how they impact the core business of the establishment.
  • Average Class Size – This can be a contentious metric and has many implications for curriculum design across the phases. Educationally, many will quote anecdotal professional understanding that suggests small class sizes are imperative for improving establishment performance, particularly in challenging situations. Others will quote that educational research suggests smaller class sizes have no significant impact on outcomes. The funding model, from which Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) or Per Pupil Funding (PPF) is generated, assumes that the average class size is 27 in Key Stage 1 to 4. For Post 16 classes it would be assumed that this is not appropriate in every case and pre-school requires different organisational structures with differently qualified staff. The last DfE paper (dated 2011) suggests that across the phases, class sizes in primary average around 27; in secondary between 20 and 24; and Post 16 drops to around 11 learners. The popular narrative about the ills of raising class sizes, I believe, really only has merit where it becomes extreme. However, there is a limiting factor: the Pupil Admission Number (PAN). In our work with establishments the major influencer on class size is the PAN that is agreed with the local authority. What do you do if the in a twoform entry Primary school where the PAN is set at 72? Do you run two classes at 36 or three classes at 24? The latter will require nearly 10 more teaching staff; the cost to the budget being enormous. There is also a growing narrative about where to place ‘curriculum enhancement’ the benefit of enhanced resourcing. Typically it can be seen at test thresholds – what I would call an ‘attainment mindset’, whilst the alternative is to invest time earlier in the learning journey to embed great learning practice – what I call a ‘progress mindset.’ There is much more to discuss on this, but that comes later. 
  • Average Teacher Cost ) – Cost, not salary, measures include all employment on-costs and should consider the cost of covering for absent staff (illness and in service training.) Clearly this is affected by region, due to heavy urban costs and allowances, however, this is not the only issue. The major impact on this will be the stability of the teaching staff. A more stable staff where large numbers have passed the threshold assessment will mean Upper Pay Scale (UPS) for many. With large numbers of these staff also receiving Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) allowancesoften used to retain staffingthis becomes a considerable cost factor. The structure of an establishment and the need to retain good staff impacts this measure and influences cost tremendously. 
  • Percentage of expenditure on teaching staff as a proportion of the Grant Income. Some will also be keen to analyse this as a proportion of Total Income. It is important, whichever analysis is used, that an understanding of the total cost as a proportion of income is embedded in our view of how many staff we employ to facilitate the curriculum. As we will see in a moment with pupil adult ratio and understanding of the total employment aspect of a institution, spend is key to controlling the budget. When this constitutes between 80-90% of the spending, any real efficiencies have to be focused here rather than on the other 10-20%. Focusing on grant income is in effect looking at the substantive element of the income; everything else is variable and relies on the character of the establishment. If this alters it opens all sorts of issues!
  • Senior leadership Full Time Equivalent (FTE) as a percentage of total teacher FTE. This is the proportion of the staff who are employed to focus on leading and managing the establishment. We  will discuss this in more depth in a future blog. 
  • Learner (Pupil) Adult Ratio This metric includes the FTE of all staff including teaching, support and ancillary staff.  This metric focuses on the number of adults who bring the full service delivery within an education establishment and brings an interesting analysis of how to create a culture of learning.

Just as an aside, I am often asked to explain why it takes 1.4 teachers to cover a ‘class’ in any establishment, it is because for every group of learners who are actively taught for a whole week or cycle the teachers required to cover the time will always be more than one person because each teacher is entitled to 10% PPA time, some will have additional leadership responsibilities, all of which reduces the average teaching load. If it is typically around 72% then there is a requirement of 1.38 teachers for every whole class. The value of this is self evident: multiply 1.4 teachers by the average cost of a teacher in your establishment and you will see the actual cost of delivering this class.

The main question that I am often left to answer, after all the above metrics are in place, is whether the actual curriculum (structured, planned and delivered) is the appropriate size for the number of learners funded within the institution. Clearly this will impact the average class size, the learner to teacher ratio, the number of staff employed to deliver (as controlled by the teacher contact ratio), and the proportion of staff to learner, but is often not given the prominence it should have in curriculum planning, leaving a major disconnect between these seven measures and actual practice. All of the metrics above give clear indication of efficiency and spend; however I strongly believe we have to understand the context in which they operate as a whole to be really effective.

Contact us on 0203 7012854 or info@cj-learning.com if we can support you in any way to deliver efficient effective  and ethical curriculum.

Chris Jones – CEO CJ Learning and CJ Learning Technologies

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