Education Funding – My view 

In 2013 I graduated from Warwick University with an MBA. An achievement completed while working full time as a School Business Manager and Mum/StepMum to 5 children, and one of which I am immensely proud. 

The reason I enjoyed my MBA so much was that I took all the taught business theories, models and practice and considered whether and how it applied to the field of Education. Of course, I was able to have some weird and “out there” ideas, swapping ‘profits’ for ‘results’ safe in the knowledge that the course was only looking for demonstration that I could apply the theory to practice. 

My final dissertation, on the changing shape of secondary education with a focus on Academy conversion, suggested some likely shapes in the future, some of which are actually now being discussed more widely. 

Back in the real world, I realise that approaching education as a whole field, or even on an individual academy basis, and applying business theory and models is not a very popular view. Those on the front line often want education to be altruistic, a public sector service where we are in it for love, not money, not growth and certainly not (shock, horror) profit!

It might be a controversial viewpoint but i believe that as much as teachers, education leaders and politicians will tell you that what they are offering is based on the needs of the child, it isn’t. I believe education today is based on historic inequalities, inappropriate white elephants to placate a minority and a political desire to avoid “rocking the boat”.

If education were based on the needs of the child, every single one in the UK would carry with them a set funding minimum amount (that is the same all over the country) to enable them to go to a well maintained, well run and well (centrally) funded school local to them.

In addition, specific needs of the individual child or the local demographic of the school would attract extra funding so that, for example, pupil premium income for schools to support students living in poverty or deprivation was not reliant on their parents claiming free school meals.

Before you shout me down, of course there are some exemptions, differences and fine detail to add into this idea. But please can you tell me why are we in a position when a student in one area is getting £2000 more funding than a student in an area of identical demographic? Why do we find that secondaries are losing out because they happen to be in a county with a large number of small primary schools? How is it fair that parents have to fight for SEN funding because their home is in a different county to their nearest school? And why do I find myself, in an F40 county, faced with a “fairer Funding Formula” that is going to actually reduce my per pupil funding?

We cannot keep paying historically elevated funding to schools in some areas of the UK while others are struggling to provide the basics through lack of funding. 

Of course, I realise that the required seismic shift to get us to the point where every child is equally and appropriately funded in this country seems, at the moment, to be too big a reach. It is going to take a brave political party many years of balancing change with minimum funding guarantees, and it certainly isn’t going to be a vote winner. But just “because its always been done like that” does not mean we shouldn’t try  to change, to ensure every child in the UK is given an equal and sustainable education. Otherwise we are failing them all. 

Give me Music, not Politics

I read a tweet recently suggesting that politics should be compulsory in schools in the same way that RE is. I don’t agree with this sentiment and I’ll tell you why. 
I do not believe that RE is just about teaching “religions of the world” but that it should be about encouraging young people to connect with something spiritual in their lives, to give them an alternative to the material and physical world that they are constantly bombarded with, to give them an inner peace, to give them faith; in themselves, their fellow man and the world around them, and to give them something to grasp in the inevitable times of crisis.

Politics is usually defined as; the study of activities associated with the governance of a country or area, but it carries an additional definition (much more accurately in my view); social relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power. 

So should this subject, loaded as it is through the ages (and into the present) with conflict, opposition and corruption, really be given a similar status to one that nurtures spiritual wellbeing? I think not. 

But it got me to wondering whether any other subjects should be elevated to compulsory status?

What about Music?

Whether you love Dr Dre or Debussy, Callas or Cheryl, music connects us all. We can all enjoy it, we can all make it (some much more tunefully than others), it defines decades and peoples. We attach it to events throughout our lives such as our first purchased track (aka ‘single’ in my day), our first dance, our favourite movie and our first gig. We use it to exercise, to entertain, to love, to sleep, to relieve stress. It becomes a source of comfort as we age and we think long and hard about the music we want at our funeral, as if it will define, in one song, the meaning of our life for the mourners. 

Attaching an importance to music at school and encouraging an appreciation of all genres, facilitating their experience of making music both with instruments and computers, seems to me to be an ideal way to teach our young people about their place in the world, both in a historical and national context. 

We will be giving them something that they can draw on, and develop with, throughout their life. Something that will define their relationships, life events and their long term well-being. 

And if, like me, they have periods of stress in their lives, they too can sit in their car and shout along to Sabotage by the Beastie Boys and instantly feel calm. 

What’s love got to do with it?

Recent discussion in the media regarding emotions, the British ‘stiff upper lip’ and our mental health got me thinking about how reticent we are in our working lives to express ourselves openly. Outside of my family (although I’m sure Barry will claim it includes family) I admit that I’m not the most touchy-feely person on the planet.
 

I’m not sure why, I don’t believe anyone would accuse me of being shy. Maybe it stems from my sub-conscious telling me that any advance I make, however well-meaning, might be misconstrued, or unwelcome, or that I must maintain a professional detachment. God forbid I should actually tell any one of my close colleagues how much they mean to me or give them a welcome-back-to-work hug after the long summer break. The world will freeze over before I feel fully comfortable in a pub or restaurant with work colleagues (perhaps this is because I’m prone to throwing food or drink over myself if I’m not constantly vigilant). But I do wonder whether, maybe, my role should be the one that sets the tone for how my teams express themselves to each other.

 

I spend over a third of my life with my work colleagues (Jack would say “the third you spend in bed doesn’t count Mum” he reckons it is really just under half!) and isn’t it madness that I am unable to tell them how much our shared walk through life means to me?

 

My first post as an SBM ended with the usual 3 month notice period, succession planning and becoming accustomed to the fact that I was moving on, but it coincided with one of my line reports being diagnosed with a terminal illness. My SBM successor was a rock, I gather, but I was left feeling that I had deserted them when they needed me most. I was only the ex-line manager, with a demanding new job some 40 miles in the opposite direction, I felt like I would be intruding on the process of building their new team if I tried to support them. So I felt excluded from the sad inevitability and I suspect that they felt abandoned.

 

So have I learned a lesson from this? What will I do differently next time? How can I build more emotionally intuitive relationships with my colleagues, both those that I manage and those that manage me, and how can I encourage them to do the same?

 

Short of weird-ing them out with a continental style hugging and kissing greeting, I don’t know what the answers are. I do know that I should not be afraid to tell them how I’m feeling, whatever the emotion is, and that I, perhaps, need to try harder to be more approachable and accepting of physical contact.

 

Occasionally, a clear indication of you-mean-a-lot-to-me would build rapport and understanding, enable me to recognise and support them in a crisis more easily and maybe one day I’ll be able to say ‘You are my friend and I love you’.

We SBMs are used to dealing with cannon fire.


It seems 2017 has more to throw at us with the news yesterday of a snap general election that, it is widely considered, will be approved in Parliament today.

My first thoughts are not “Will income tax rise?” “Will they fix the pot hole in my road?” “Will they bring back fox hunting?” (All major concerns on the doorstep I gather). No. My first thoughts are “What will that do to School Funding?” “Should I delay that TLR?” “Perhaps that boiler could last another year…”

Education changes so quickly and so seemingly on whim, that it is sometimes difficult to keep up. There is also so much smoke-and-mirrors that it is difficult to see what is really going on. Take the Grammar School issue. Is the point to really discuss a reintroduction of Grammar Schools or is that a diversion tactic so the media don’t talk about the woeful underfunding of schools?

I’d like the media to talk about the fact that my school has to pay 26.5% employers pension contribution on top of support staff costs which equals about £144,000 per year and will continue to rise over the next 3 years. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge paying pension contributions but the fact that that it is not funded really bugs me!!) Anyway, pensions aren’t interesting news or vote winners on the doorstep.

So, in education terms, what is a vote winner?

The Academy drive was a cross party initiative which is now set in, so that won’t be an issue. Grammar Schools? Unlikely to be a vote winner in the authorities that haven’t got any grammars, swept away in a drive by a 1960’s Labour government. (I know that Mrs T is widely blamed for this but by the time she became Education Secretary the wheels were in such motion that she was unable to brake). What about “A good education for all”? (Duh!) or “Increased funding for schools”? Yes! “Where is the money coming from?” (the astute resident-that-bothers-to-answer-the-door asks) Umm…not sure, taxes? (replies the vague canvasser)

It seems to me that, whatever happens on June 8, I will need to continue to find ways of managing a shockingly inadequate budget, but I intend to continue to shout as loudly as I can, especially as now my local MP and chosen political party will at least be listening…for a month.

And, what’s my politics?

I’m not a lover of the Conservatives, and I’m not a fan of Ms May, she always sounds so much that she is Try-inG To PuT Her PuB-LiCK SPeaK-inG Train-inG in-To PRaC-Tice, and put as much inflection into her voice as she can, that she forgets to actually sound genuine. Labour has never really been my thing (as much as my Manchester based son and his family try to convert me) so I will be going for Lib Dem. John Cleese once said that if everyone who wanted to vote Lib Dem actually did, then they would win by a landslide.

So, in my opinion, this is the time to nail colours to the mast, show that we are a people who care for our planet…our elderly…our children’s future…our health…our fellow man (whatever their nationality), and not just that pot hole in the road outside our house.

PS Whoever you plan to vote for – make sure you are registered! http://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote