Monday, 18 April 2011

Audit Commission Better Value for Money: Classroom Deployment Questions

Two weeks ago the audit commission released four briefings which are designed to help schools make the best use of their workforce - whether teachers, teaching assistants, or administration and finance staff - at a time when they have to find savings.

England's maintained schools spent £35 billion in 2009/10 and School staff account for over three-quarters of this total and form one of the country's largest public sector workforces.

The four briefings, under the heading Better Value for Money in Schools, examine patterns in spending in maintained schools in England. They aim to help school School governing bodies control costs without compromising educational attainment.

They look at four areas where schools have scope to improve efficiency:

The deployment of classroom staff, including class sizes and allocation of teachers and teaching assistants;

The breadth and focus of schools' curriculum offer;

Approaches to covering for staff absence, including supply teachers; and

The size, cost and composition of the wider (non-teaching) school workforce.

In addition a summary paper, An overview of school workforce spending, which is targeted at chairs of governing bodies.

Today we will cover Classroom Deployment with the rest being covered over the next four days.

The main findings on classroom deployment are as follows.

■ The number of teachers in England has increased by 8 per cent since 1997. With a concurrent drop in pupil numbers, the ratio of teachers to pupils has increased by 9 per cent since 1997.

■ Since the introduction of planning, preparation and assessment (PPA)time in 2003 teacher utilisation has declined in primary schools, although it remains much higher than in secondary schools. The scope for increases in teacher utilisation is modest, but may be an option for
some schools. Secondary schools are most likely to achieve efficiency gains in this way.

■ In 2010 an average class in a primary school contains 26 pupils, while a class in a secondary school contains on average 21 pupils. Variation in class size can be large, even between similar schools. However, only some year groups are large enough to allow a reduction in the number
of classes by increasing average class size. Some secondary schools could improve efficiency by increasing their class sizes but scope for savings in primaries is limited.

■ The number of teaching assistants has tripled since 1997. They now make up a quarter of the school workforce and cost some £2.2 billion. There is wide variation in the use of teaching assistants between schools and evidence on the impact of assistants on pupils’ attainment
or teachers’ workload remains inconsistent.

Teachers constitute schools’ largest cost, and their greatest asset.

Fifty-six per cent of schools’ budgets is spent on teacher pay. Ensuring that teachers spend the greatest amount of time in the classroom, where they add most value, helps schools to achieve value for money. It also helps pupils, with research demonstrating that outstanding teaching has the greatest impact on pupils’ outcomes (Ref.2). Over half of the secondary school business managers we surveyed believed that schools had scope to improve the utilisation of teachers.

According to the Department for Education (DfE) Workload Diary Survey, teachers in both primary and secondary schools work around 50 hours per week. Apart from teaching, teachers carry out a range of managerial, extra-curricular, pastoral and disciplinary duties. They also
need to prepare and follow up lessons if those lessons are to be effective. In order to reduce the out-of-hours workload of teachers and improve teaching quality, the 2003 National Agreement on workload requires schools to set aside at least 10 per cent of a teacher's normal timetabled teaching time for ‘planning, preparation and assessment’ (PPA).

Questions for School leaders and Governing Bodies

■ How does your school make sure that your timetable is efficient, and that all teachers are always allocated to either teach or to PPA or management time?

■ How have you ensured that the PPA and management time is sufficient but not excessive for your teachers’ needs?

■ How well are your administrative staff integrated into the teachers’ work day to ensure they effectively minimise the amount of non-teaching work teachers have to carry out?

■ How well is your school working with other schools to look at the opportunities collaboration could bring to improve teacher utilisation?

■ How have you considered if your year groups are large enough to allow for potential savings from larger classes?

■ How have you considered the limitations from your school building, your curriculum or your pupil population that make larger classes unfeasible?

Deploying teaching assistants

■ How have you considered the role and responsibilities of teaching assistants in your school? How have you communicated these roles and responsibilities to the rest of the school workforce, parents and pupils?

■ How have you reviewed how your teaching assistants have reduced teacher workloads, and supported improved educational attainment?

■ How have you considered the contribution your teaching assistants have made to help achieve the schools objectives and outcomes for pupils?

■ What is the quality of support, performance management,training and development for the teaching assistants in your school?

■ How do you know if the use of teaching assistants in your school has had positive or negative impact on the pupils in your school?

The Full briefing on Classroom Deployment from the Audit Commission can be found below

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