Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

MORE SPENDING POWER FOR SCHOOLS AND LESS RED TAPE - BLUNKETT

  • Comment
A package of bold measures to give headteachers more control over ...
A package of bold measures to give headteachers more control over

their own budgets and to free up time spent on bureaucracy was

announced by education and employment secretary David Blunkett today.

Mr Blunkett set out proposals to improve the education funding system

by considering the introduction of separate budgets for schools and

local education authorities as part of a new Green Paper later this

year.

He pledged to cut dramatically the amount of paperwork in schools by

streamlining the Standards Fund and cutting by one-third the number

of documents, and by half the number of pages and paperwork, sent

automatically to all schools by his department in the next school

year.

Speaking at the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) annual

conference in Jersey Mr Blunkett said:

'Since 1997, we have given schools much greater control over their

spending than ever before. Our Fair Funding reforms have seen almost

an extra£1bn transfer from local education authorities into

schools, with heads now making decisions on spending on school meals,

building maintenance, legal and other administrative services.

'We're channelling our additional investment direct to schools. This

year in the Budget we gave schools direct grants of up to£50,000

each to spend as they wish on raising standards. While spending per

pupil in 1997 had fallen£60 per pupil over the previous three years,

our spending has increased by£300 in real terms per pupil since

then. We are also doubling investment in school repairs, with£5.9

bn being invested in the three years up to 2002.

'We already publish tables showing how much cash local education

authorities pass on to their schools together with how much is kept

back for central services. In those tables we have already developed

the concept of a schools budget and a local education authority

budget. The tables which we will publish again later this month will

show real progress in cutting administrative spending and increasing

delegation. But as we develop a new approach to local authority

funding, I want to go further.

'Later this year, the government will publish a Green Paper on

options for changing the funding system.

'The Green Paper will set out a range of options for debate. They

could include for example: improving the distribution of funding from

central government to make it fairer; and giving Education

Authorities three year funding settlements so that they can plan

ahead. Our objective is to remove the worst of the disparities that

exist across the country. I want to stress that we would be levelling

up, not down. These options will all be explored further in the Green

Paper which will be issued by the DETR - and I want headteachers to play a full part in the debate that follows.

'One option I am particularly keen to examine, is the separation of

school and education authority budgets. If we have that, we can fund

authorities for the specific functions they need to carry out and

where, if they were not in existence, we would have to invent an

alternative structure: co-ordinating special educational needs

provision, ensuring that a satisfactory school transport service

exists, helping to turn around failing schools and making sure every

pupil has a school place. But with such separate budgets, we can also

be much clearer about the funding intended for schools.

'The proposals will cut away the undergrowth and ensure that every

penny is spent on teachers and teaching. Parents will see the

benefits because schools will be better placed to spend money on

their children's education to raise local education standards.

'We also want to streamline the Standards Fund - our key funding

instrument which is now supporting£1.7bn worth of expenditure,

or eight per cent of total support for schools - to make it simpler

for schools. We have already reduced the number of grants which

require bidding by schools and have allowed schools to transfer money

from some grants into others. But it can be simplified much more.

'Next year, 2001-02, we are making more radical changes to the Fund

to give schools more freedom to determine their spending priorities.

We will:

- significantly reduce the number of separate ring-fenced grants,

reducing from the current 44 by grouping them under around half a

dozen broad headings, so schools are free to decide the detailed

pattern of expenditure. Virtually all allocations will be by

formula, removing the need for the bidding process which currently

affects 9 of the categories;

- ensure that schools know their Standards Fund allocation at the

same time as they receive information about their delegated

budgets to help them plan ahead;

- allow schools to carry over their unused Standards Fund to the end

of the school year, rather than having to spend it by 31 March or

lose it.

'I know the form-filling and record keeping that has accompanied the

Standards Fund, as well as broader requests for information, has

caused concern among heads.

'Thats why for next year's Standards Fund we will make a substantial

reduction in the paperwork associated with the Fund by scrapping the

cumbersome system of making payments only in response to claims after

expenditure has been incurred. This will be replaced by an automatic

stream of payments reflecting agreed priorities and allocations.

'We will also introduce a lighter touch arrangement for monitoring

the Standards Fund expenditure.

'Teachers and heads have responded magnificently to the challenging

reform agenda we have set out, to raise standards for every child.

The literacy and numeracy hours and the introduction of performance

related pay for teachers are both vital reforms, recognised by this

association, and the rewards can already be seen in better test

results. And, in introducing the new curriculum in the Autumn, we

have given schools greater flexibility outside the literacy and

numeracy programme.

'We have already provided£80m through the combined Small

Schools Support Fund and the administrative support grants, allowing

eligible schools to employ more administrative staff, providing

better Information and Communication Technology, and the equipment

and training to both free up teachers to teach and to link schools

together in collaborative working.

'We have already improved the way material is sent to schools -

moving from random mailshots to sign-posted monthly mailings,

distinguishing between what is essential and what is for information

only. We have a scrutiny process involving headteachers and Education

Authority representatives to vet new demands on requests for

information and mailings for schools.

'But having said this, I recognise that there is more to be done -

not simply about money, but reducing needless bureaucracy.

'So from September we will:

- guarantee to reduce by one-third the number of documents, and by

half the number of pages and paperwork, we send automatically from

the Department to all schools, in the next school year;

- having already introduced controls that have saved over 10,000

hours of non-essential data collection, we will work with the

General Teaching Council to ensure further real reductions in both

the collection of data, requests for information, and materials

sent out by national agencies, Education Authorities, as well as

the Department. We will rationalise the collection of existing

data and eliminate duplicate requests;

- from September all heads and chairs of governors will be offered

the option of an electronic documents service - a kind of

personalised electronic in-tray - which will enable them to

receive, scan and store documents electronically. 3,500 have

already signed up to this 'paperless' approach (however, we will

also make sure that documents are available on request for those

who need them to avoid agencies and authorities offloading the

print out of materials onto schools);

- I am also today indicating to local authorities that they must

adopt the same standards and targets for reducing communications

to schools, avoiding duplication, and agreeing with us new

formulas for data collection.

'These are practical changes which will mean less time spent by heads

and teachers on unproductive administrative tasks and give them even

more control over school budgets. In the next school year I am

confident we can improve on the work we are doing to get money to

where it is most needed and to reduce needless workloads for

teachers.'

NOTES

1. The DfEE is revising the statutory code of practice on

LEA-school relations to make it clearer, more user-friendly and

up-to-date. Later this month the department will launch a

consultation on the revised code which will:

- be vastly reduced in length - from its current 60 pages to no more

than six;

- emphasise that schools are the front line deliverers of higher

standards;

- present a much clearer and simpler statement of the LEA's

responsibilities for supporting their schools in the drive to

achieve higher standards;

- stress that LEAs should focus their efforts on the schools that

need help most, and should adopt a light touch approach for

schools which are performing well;

- also stress the obligation of successful schools to work with

their LEA to spread their good practice across the whole community

of local schools;

- spell out LEAs' responsibility to minimise the administrative

burdens and information requirements they impose on their schools.

2. The DfEE will publish a new purchasing guide for schools in

autumn to support delegation of funds. The Government is working

with LEAs on what more they can do to ensure that schools have the

information and skills they need to get the best possible value

for money in buying services from a range of providers.

3. A detailed breakdown of local education authorities' budgets

can be found in PN 288/99.

4. Details of Standards Fund changes attached.

5. More detailed briefing on bureaucracy changes also attached.

CHANGES TO THE STANDARDS FUND FROM 2001

Summary

The Standards Fund is the Government's main channel for targeting

funds towards national priorities to be delivered by Local Education

Authorities and schools. It provides funding for major initiatives

such as the Literacy and Numeracy strategies; inclusion policies and

support for children with special educational needs; and the

Excellence in Cities programme raising standards in urban schools.

The Standards Fund achieves excellent results, and the Government

intends to continue to direct money towards broadly the same set of

national priorities. But there is an opportunity to:

- reduce the paperwork by simplifying the mechanics of payment and

accounting;

- encourage an approach focused on outcomes;

- give schools and local authorities greater spending freedom;

- share timely management information, and spread best practice.

What we have already done to improve the Standards Fund this year

We have:

- made much more money available: the Standards Fund is up from #600

million in 1998 to around #1.7 billion this year;

- reduced the proportion of grants requiring bids (from 40% to under

20%);

- increased the money which Education Authorities have to pass on to

schools (now 75%);

- enabled schools to transfer some of this money to other Standards

Fund priorities.

Our review

Because Standards Fund grants are earmarked for specific purposes,

they are subject to special controls and reporting requirements.

Schools have found these increasingly burdensome as the size of the

Fund has grown. Schools and Local Education Authorities have been

concerned too at the time they have had to spend in preparing bids.

The Department therefore carried out a review in consultation with

schools, Education Authorities and other interested parties.

As a result of the review we intend to make radical changes to

simplify the operation of the Standards Fund from April 2001. The

details of the whole package of reforms will be worked up over the

next few months, in consultation with headteachers, Education

Authorities and other stakeholders, and will be announced in a

Circular in September. The key elements are set out below.

Details

- Simplification: Standards Fund allocations will be grouped under

roughly half a dozen broad headings (contrast with this year's 44

separate grants). Almost all allocations will be by formula, not

bidding (contrast with 1997 when 40% of grants required

competitive bids).

- More freedom for successful schools to determine spending

priorities: Though some allocations will continue to be tied to

particular kinds of expenditure, schools will have greater freedom

to spend on a range of purposes. Any school which is not under

special measures or causing financial concern will be free to move

money between most Standards Fund allocations without reference to

anyone.

- Monitoring via objectives/outputs: For each broad heading there

will be a summary of DfEE objectives. These will relate to

existing targets and performance measures set out in the Local

Education Authority's Education Development Plan, other Local

Education Authority plans, and the OFSTED inspection framework. So

the Standards Fund money will be more clearly linked to school and

Education Authority targets for pupil achievement and other key

priorities.

- Improved accountability: Money to be passed direct to schools will

be clearly distinguished from money for which the Education

Authority is to retain responsibility. Schools and Education

Authorities will prepare simple initial plans, integrated into

their normal budget processes, and make outturn reports. This will

provide better and earlier management information, but for less

administrative effort, because schools will not have to submit

claims, nor seek permission to move money between different

grants.

- Money available for the full school year: Currently, schools must

spend their Standards Fund money by 31 March or lose it. In future

schools will be free to spend their Standards Fund money at any

time until 31 August.

- Early final decisions on programme and allocations: DfEE will

announce the Standards Fund total in the early autumn, and

Education Authority allocations by Christmas. Schools will know

their allocations early in the new year, on the same timetable as

their main budget allocation. Thus they can plan all their budgets

on a cycle which links to their development planning. DfEE will

retain a contingency allowance to enablein-year Standards Fund

initiatives.

- Pre-arranged schedule of payments to local authorities: DfEE

payments will be made according to a regular schedule, rather than

payments on account on receipt of claims. This will greatly reduce

audit demands on schools, Education Authorities and DfEE.

- Evaluation via sample surveys: There will be a planned programme

of evaluation, with schools and local authorities, of best

practice in using Standards Fund money to achieve key objectives.

Each evaluation will build on the full national data available,

but will focus on a structured sample of schools, reducing

burdens. Information will be fed rapidly onto the new Standards

Fund website (to be launched in the autumn), enabling it to be

widely shared.

DfEE - 1 June 2000

SUPPORTING HEAD TEACHERS, CUTTING RED TAPE

More money, simpler funding

We have:

- increased total funding to support schools this year by 10% in

cash terms, an extra #180 per pupil in real terms

- included in this special grants to all schools announced in this

year's Budget, putting extra cash directly into school budgets

(from #3,000 for the smallest primary school to #50,000 for the

largest secondary schools)

- transferred some #1 billion from Local Education Authorities into

schools through the Fair Funding reforms, including giving heads

control of budgets for school meals, building maintenance, legal

and administrative matters previously with the education authority

- set tough targets limiting the amount Local Education Authorities

can spend on central administration and setting 80% as a minimum

level of delegation which all Local Education Authorities must

meet this year. Progress will be seen in tables to be published

later in June

We will:

- make radical changes to simplify the operation of next year's

Standards Fund and give heads more flexibility and control (more

details on separate sheet)

- carry out a major review of the grant distribution system which

supports all local services and publish a Green Paper this summer

setting out options for debate including separate budgets for

schools and Local Education Authorities

- work with Local Education Authorities to ensure that schools have

the information and skills they need to get the best possible

value for money in buying services from a range of providers

- make guidance available to schools in the autumn on how they can

become cannier purchasers of delegated services

- continue to increase funding for schools - on current plans by

next year the increase in funding per pupil since 1997 will be

#300 per pupil in real terms.

Better support for teachers and head teachers

We have:

- provided voluntary schemes of work to underpin all National

Curriculum subjects at Key Stages 1-3

- given support and training for the literacy and numeracy

strategies, and considerably reduced other curriculum requirements

in primary schools to give greater flexibility

- provided easily accessible information for teachers on best

practice through the Standards site

(http://www.standards.dfee.gov.uk/), now receiving over a million

'hits' a week

- committed funding to employ and train 20,000 additional teaching

assistants by 2002

- set up the Small Schools Support Fund and the Administrative

Support Fund for Small Schools (combined value of #80 million this

year) to enable small schools to take on more administrative

support and fund developments like shared bursar services

- provided new heads and heads of small primary schools with

portable computers

- committed #40 million to support the introduction of performance

management, responding to head teacher views by adjusting the

timetable and providing more training.

We will:

- launch the new National College for School Leadership this Autumn,

bringing together the best in leadership practice from the public

and private sectors, with a strong virtual presence allowing

interactive discussion, on-line master classes, and access to up

to date research

- develop a new National Curriculum website with links to good

practice and teaching materials

- work with key partners, including head teacher and local authority

associations, to evaluate the impact of the Administrative Support

Fund and look more widely at action to raise the status and

professionalism of administrative support staff in schools

Less paper, better communications

We have:

- co-ordinated DfEE communications in monthly batches, presenting

each document in a clear format so it can be seen at a glance what

it is about and whether action is required

- made more information on request only, so heads can chose what

they receive

- piloted an internet-based publishing service for schools

(http://www.easea.co.uk) which now has over 3,500 registered users

We will:

- guarantee in the next school year to reduce by at least one-third

the number of documents, and by a half the number of pages, DfEE

sends automatically to all primary or secondary schools, inviting

a group of six head teachers to help us monitor that guarantee

- work alongside the GTC with local authorities and other agencies

so they achieve similar cutbacks, and there is a clear standard

adopted for how local authorities communicate with schools linked

to the revised Local Education Authority/Schools

Code of Practice

- provide from September:

(a) a full electronic in-tray and document archiving service for

all head teachers, teachers and governors that wish to use it;

(b) an internet based 'A-Z' of school leadership and management

that will act as an electronic encyclopaedia for heads with

succinct, practical guidance on a wide range of topics, full

search facilities, and links through to reference material on

organisational and legal issues, and examples of good practice

(A prototype is available at

(http://www.dfee.gov.uka-z/intro.html.)

- bring together these and other key services for teachers and head

teachers in one place on the web so they can be easily accessed

within a few mouse clicks

- phase out the automatic need for most paper-based communications

by 2002, when all schools will be connected to the internet, but

continue to provide printed versions of documents where schools

request them

Fewer data requests, better information

We have:

- set up a high level group with head teacher representation to

review all new and existing DfEE data collection - so far it has

cut out over 10,000 hours of non-essential form-filling in

schools and education authorities, and the approach is now being

extended to involve QCA, OFSTED and TTA

- made clear that National Grid for Learning funding for ICT in

schools and education authorities can in future be used to develop

management information systems

We will:

- work with schools and education authorities to implement an

information management strategy that will largely automate the

collection of data by 2002, significantly reducing the burden of

requests for information

- complete a review of all existing data collected by DfEE, QCA and

OFSTED by December 2000

- agree a common set of data for schools that is collected and

shared electronically by all parties and agencies

- agree common quality standards for schools management information

software to ensure information can be transferred automatically

from one system to another

Clearer accountabilities, better regulation

We have:

- shortened the period of notice before inspections and introduced

'light touch' inspections for schools that are performing well

- started to consult on new statutory guidance clarifying the

respective roles of heads and governing bodies and emphasising

that governors should focus on strategy

We will:

- overhaul the statutory Code of Practice on Local Education

Authority-School Relations to make it clearer, shorter (down from

60 pages to no more than six) and to emphasise the responsibility

of education authorities to support their schools in raising

standards and not impose administrative burdens on them

- look to use new Regulatory Reform legislation as soon as it is

enacted to sweep away any unnecessarily cumbersome statutory

requirements on schools.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.