Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Audit Commission Better Value for Money: Curriculum Breath Questions

The main findings on curriculum breadth are as follows.

■ Up to Key Stage 4, schools have little choice in the timing they give to particular subjects, if they follow the guidance by the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA). Schools use the choice they do have to support English and mathematics. Overall, the time spent on particular subjects in primary and secondary school has not changed between 2006 and 2010.

■ On average schools enter their pupils in 24.5 subjects at GCSE, while others offer as many as 42 subjects. The breadth of the curriculum at GCSE is largely explained by school size. We have not found evidence that offering a broader curriculum increases cost per pupil, suggesting that narrowing the curriculum will not necessarily increase value for money.

■ Spending on bought-in curriculum services has more than doubled since 2003. Schools could achieve greater value for money in this area without narrowing their GCSE offer to pupils. However, because the total spending in this area is relatively small, the scope for savings is
likely to be limited.

Questions for school leaders and governing bodies

■ How do you use the ‘spare’ time in the curriculum? How do you decide?

■ What scope do you have to adjust your subject offer to achieve financial balance as funding becomes tighter? How would this impact on the provision of a balanced and broadly based curriculum?

■ How have you reviewed the cost of your optional Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 subjects with small numbers of pupils?

■Are there subjects taken by a few pupils that are not financially sustainable?

■ How have you used the Audit Commission workforce costing tool (secondary schools) to cost individual subject departments?

■ Could you train teachers to teach more than one subject to save money?

■ How have you analysed how the curriculum offer affects your ability to attract pupils to your school?

■ How have you worked with the council school improvement team to get a better understanding about the cost of curriculum choices?

■ How has your spending on bought-in curriculum services changed over time? How do you know you are getting good value for money?

■ How might you save money on bought-in curriculum services?

■ In what ways could bought-in services be used to build your capacity to provide these services in-house in future?

■ What scope do you have, given local labour market constraints, to use teacher recruitment to maximise the breadth of skills, and therefore curriculum in the school workforce?

The full briefing Curriculum Breath can be found here


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