The fundamentals of education
Former National Schools Commissioner and longstanding educational innovator, Frank Green, explores how integrated curriculum financial planning and SMARTCurriculum helps to deliver the fundamentals of education.
As many people will know, I am no stranger to innovation. From the outset, setting up the Leigh Academy, originally rebuilt as The Leigh Technology Academy, we had the opportunity to re-think everything. The state-of-the-art building has light open spaces. We introduced the best in new technologies and provided the perfect environment for creativity and learning.
Since those days, the Leigh Academies Trust has grown to include eleven secondary schools, eleven primary schools and one special school. I too have moved on from being CEO to Vice-Chairman of Trustees. Throughout this journey, we have maintained our focus on the fundamentals of education. I am a great believer in providing enhancements to the education we provide. The challenge is understanding that enhancement and knowing where to put it. Simon Beamish, our current CEO, is doing a really fantastic job.
Teaching and Learning are the core business of any school. Good behaviour is essential because it enables and fosters great teaching and learning.
In any school, the cost of teaching the curriculum is the largest single element in the budget. It is essential that we manage this effectively to ensure we are able to put resources exactly where we need them.
This is why we are committed to Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning (ICFP). The national data tells us that the majority of school leaders are facing a challenge regarding the nature and cost of curriculum enhancement.
For the cynics, ICFP is a cost-cutting exercise. I would like to challenge this idea: it is about knowing your schools better.
ICFP is a way of understanding exactly what each curriculum enhancement is worth in strategic terms.
This demands that decisions focus on where enhancement will best influence outcomes, closing the gaps in learning and essential skills. As a result, we know whether a particular strategy is worth the investment. I want to see school, confederation and MAT leaders who know exactly what resources are needed to deliver their vision for the education of young people.
Around three quarters of a school budget is spent on staff. Any good leader knows that our greatest asset is our people. It makes sense to plan the curriculum as effectively as possible and make sure our provision is appropriately staffed.
To this end, the Challenger MAT, of which I am now Chair, uses the SMARTcurriculum App for curriculum planning across all of its schools. The online app takes about two hours to populate with the school’s financial and curriculum information. Once this is done, a dashboard presents a powerful representation of the curriculum and staffing enhancements, along with the ability to drill down and analyse the detail. We have also used the App to model across schools, determine design and staffing deployment and to consider the strategic development of education across many individual provisions.
Apart from the schools where deficit recovery has been the first step, and restructuring has been a major driver to initial actions, once in balanced budget we have found that primary schools are able to redirect £80,000 per year to better meet the needs of young people and in many secondary schools a further £200,000 per school has been identified, enabling us to invest in life-changing experiences for young people and a richer curriculum offer.
In essence, by using the SMARTcurriculum App, working with our school leadership teams, we are able to deliver a better curriculum in each of our schools, target interventions more effectively and develop sustainable strategies that improve the outcomes for learners and the communities we serve.
Frank Green CBE has a longstanding career in education, spanning over 40 years, as former National Schools Commissioner and CEO of Leigh Academies Trust. Currently, Green oversees The Challenger Trust as a Trustee. SMARTCurriculum App is a CJ Learning technology.