Slump in schools' spending for another CPD provider

A major school staff professional development provider has lost income from schools – but the drop has been offset by an increase in government funding.

Income from schools for the Ambition Institute, which provides training courses for teachers, school leaders and system leaders, dropped £500,000 to £3 million last year.

Other CPD providers, including the PiXL Club and SSAT, experienced similar slumps.

However, Ambition’s 2018-19 annual accounts, published last week, show income for programmes funded by the Department for Education rose 15 per cent from the previous year to £12.1 million.

The accounts run up to the end of August. Hilary Spencer, its new chief executive, told Schools Week earlier this year: “I’d like us to get to a point where [DfE contracts are] a smaller overall percentage of our funding base, just because I think it gives us more space to tailor some of what we’re doing.”

But the accounts show Ambition has become more reliant on the government: DfE funding made up 74 per cent of its income last year, up from 72 per cent in 2017-18.

Meanwhile school funding fell from 24 per cent of its overall income to 18 per cent.

However, the accounts say it is in a “healthy position”, posting a £1.3 million surplus before “change costs”.

Last year was year two of a three-year plan to “review and modernise” the organisation to ensure it was “financially secure for the future”. It invested £1.8 million of its reserves on the changes last year alone.

Rebecca Boomer-Clark, its chair of trustees, said changes would “improve the quality and scope of our programmes and make them better value for money”.

Analysis of financial returns by the data specialists SchoolDash last year found that schools’ spending on CPD plummeted by £23 million, from £259 million in 2015-16, to £235.8 million in 2016-17 – a drop of almost 9 per cent.

And there are concerns the coronavirus pandemic will push CPD even further down the list of priorities for schools.

Tom Middlehurst, the head of policy at school member organisation SSAT, said the extra costs of more cleaning and personal protective equipment might mean schools were “naturally looking again at their CPD budgets – at a time when professional development is needed more than ever”.

But organisations are adapting. PiXL, another school membership body that provides CPD, has shifted its offer for schools, including running national meetings on its own TV platform, “PiXL TV”.

An Ambition Institute spokesperson said they were seeing “good evidence that teachers and school leaders are still committed to their professional development”.