A leading academy trust is running £300-per-head sessions to advise school leaders on how they can restructure staff to deliver a “fit-for purpose” curriculum in the face of crippling budget pressures.
Outwood Grange academies trust (OGAT) will host the “curriculum access day”, which will include staff restructuring advice, in March next year for business managers, headteachers and trust chief executives.
The trust is known for giving away its successful method of curriculum planning free on a pen drive, and is now planning further ways to help leaders to cope with squeezed budgets while maintaining a curriculum that meets the needs of all pupils.
However, the inclusion of staff restructuring as part of the sessions could prove controversial.
School Partnership trust academies (since renamed as Delta academies trust) announced a curriculum restructure to balance its books in June, just months after forming a “landmark partnership” with OGAT.
Of course this is a painful process because it affects staff. But [falling finances] are happening everywhere – education is not immune from this
The move threatened up to 88 jobs at seven of its schools and led to the threat of industrial action.
But Sir Michael Wilkins, the founding chief executive of OGAT who retired in September, told Schools Week: “Money is getting tight and people are having to look at other ways to meet that duty [to provide curriculum for all pupils].
“Of course this is a painful process because it affects staff. But [falling finances] are happening everywhere – education is not immune from this.”
He said the courses were a positive example of collaboration, with OGAT already handing out its curriculum financial planning formula free on memory sticks to hundreds of schools.
The model is based on what the trust believes are sustainable ratios between teaching and non-teaching staff (contact hours), and the number of periods and class sizes (curriculum bonus).
A trust spokesperson said the long-established tool has been used by the trust and others to secure “effective and efficient use of finances to support children’s outcomes”.
Matthew Wheeler, business manager at Bordesley Green girls’ school in Birmingham, said sharing knowledge was always to be welcomed, but said he was “wary of a one-size-fits-all approach”.
He was supportive of balancing curriculums to meet budgets, but said the OGAT approach would not work for all schools.
Interesting: leading acad chain Outwood Grange offering course on "curriculum led financial planning",at £295 a head.https://t.co/cItZeQgx55
— Warwick Mansell (@warwickmansell) December 7, 2016
He urged schools to hold back on making job losses before details of the new funding formula emerged, due to be implemented in 2018. The government has repeatedly said they will be released before Christmas.
Schools Week has previously reported academy trusts contemplating cuts as a result of a budget squeeze.
Leaders said the mixture of flat funding and increasing costs left them no choice but to save on staffing costs.
Wilkins warned: “If they [school leaders] don’t get a balanced budget, they are waiting for somebody to come along, give them a financial warning and take away their right to decide how they spend money.”
The trust, which runs 21 schools, is rated as one of the top performers in the Department for Education’s trust league tables at both key stage 2 and 4, and was one of five trusts awarded a slice of £5 million last year to improve school standards in the north of England.
Wilkins said the £300 charge was to cover the cost of running the sessions – which include professional development from senior trust staff.
The trust’s human resources team will also explain how they support principals to carry out a “teaching staff/and or support staff restructure (where necessary)”.