Chapter 4: Support and systems needed to implement change
In general, there was wide agreement that headteachers required support to deal with tasks that did not relate to teaching so that they are able to prioritise their leadership of learning. These included administration, financial management, and building maintenance issues.
Respondents raised concerns regarding the level of accountability headteachers will face under a more devolved funding system and most felt that accountability for funding decisions should lie at the local authority level.
The provision of training was referred to by a wide range of respondents. While some respondents suggested that specialist training would help headteachers to build knowledge and expertise in areas outside of learning and support ( e.g. budget management), there was little appetite from headteachers, who felt that such tasks should be carried out by someone trained in the relevant field.
Respondents argued that evidence based research could support headteachers in decision making over school budget spending and measuring the impact of school level interventions.
This chapter outlines the key messages about the support and accountability needed to support any changes to the way schools are funded. It answers the following questions in the consultation:
Question 6: The Scottish Government's education governance reforms will empower headteachers to make more decisions about resources at their school. What support will headteachers require to enable them to fulfil these responsibilities effectively?
Question 7: What factors should be taken into account in devising accountability and reporting measures to support greater responsibility for funding decisions at school level?
Question 6: Support for headteachers
The consultation document asked respondents about the support they felt headteachers would require to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities under the new system of school funding. 59% of respondents answered this questions and identified possible forms of support. These were:
- Support with administration and financial management;
- External support for specialist services;
- Guidance and clarity;
- Access to evidence based research.
4.1 Support with administration and financial management
There was agreement among respondents of all types that headteachers required support with administration and financial management, so that they are able to prioritise teaching and learning.
- Most respondents referred to the need for 'business management' support. In most cases, respondents argued that schools should have an 'in-house' business manager. It was widely suggested that school-level financial management duties should be completed by a professional with appropriate competencies and expertise. Some other organisations emphasised that additional funding was required to cover these posts in every school, and it was crucial to ensure this was not redirected from 'frontline learning'. One headteacher suggested a 'cluster-based' business manager could work if a school-level post was not feasible.
- Many local authorities and some other organisations in particular highlighted the need for administrative support for headteachers. Respondents argued that the time headteachers were having to spend completing administrative tasks currently prevented them from being 'leaders of learning'. There was some concern that the administrative workload would increase as headteachers are given more responsibilities, and that they will need support if they are to meet reporting requirements. There was agreement among these respondents that this should take the form of dedicated administration staff working within schools.
"Whilst generally supportive of the direction of travel, the Council's Cabinet expressed concern about the potential costs to support headteachers to undertake additional financial, HR and procurement responsibilities. The costs of employing business managers for example could range from £360,000 (for a cluster approach) to £2.1 million for a business manager in every school. We are clear that these additional administrative costs would need to be met by Scottish Government, but are concerned that this could remove funding from front line education." - Local Authority
4.2 External support for specialist services
There was wide agreement amongst all respondent types that headteachers should have access to external support for issues that do not relate to learning. This included the following:
- Headteachers require Human Resources ( HR) support from their local authority if they are to be given greater control of staffing management. This point was raised by many local authorities. While most respondents argued that HR issues should remain the responsibility of the relevant local authority, one Local Authority and one headteacher suggested providing legal support to headteachers to enable them to deal with this at the school level.
- Headteachers need external support to deal with building maintenance issues and facilities management. A few local authorities and the majority of headteachers consulted through the focus groups specifically mentioned this issue. Headteachers who raised this point emphasised that they should be able to access these services easily and that the support, to be valuable, needed to be responsive to their requirements. Many felt that they were currently spending too much time dealing with these issues and they did not believe this should be part of their role as headteachers. This was said to be a particular problem for headteachers working in smaller and rural schools as there is less staff time available and buildings tend to be older.
- Access to IT, health and safety and legal services. These were mentioned by many local authorities and headteachers/teachers.
- In terms of the support needs outlined in this section, it was argued that there was still a role for local authorities in providing such services to headteachers. While this point was stressed by the majority of local government respondents, there were a few suggestions from other groups that headteachers should be given the option to outsource support if they felt they could get better value for money elsewhere. In focus group discussions with headteachers, there was a strong sense that, while headteachers would like greater control and autonomy over decision making and planning, this relied on the quality and responsiveness of support provided by the local authority.
4.3 Guidance and clarity
The importance of supporting headteachers to fulfil their responsibilities under the new system of funding was referred to by a wide range of respondents:
- The need for greater clarity on the role of headteachers under the new system of funding was mentioned by local authorities, other organisations and headteachers. One headteacher suggested that this could be achieved by revising the Headteachers' Charter.
- There was some concern from a range of respondents regarding the increased level of 'accountability' headteachers will face under the new system. These respondents argued that headteachers would require support to deal with this, " particularly where parents/pupils disagree with spending decisions". This point was echoed in the focus group discussions, with headteachers raising concerns that they would be accountable for events outside their control. Examples included reductions in pupil attainment levels which might be caused by external factors. A few headteachers said that they would like greater clarity on what was meant by 'accountability' under the proposed system and any protections that will be in place.
- A few local authorities referred to the need for national benchmarking which sets out minimum standards for schools. All specifically mentioned guidance on class sizes and the amount of resources required for different types of schools. It was argued that this would support headteachers in decision making and create greater consistency across schools.
The provision of training for headteachers was also a main area of support raised by a wide range of respondents. However, the type of training suggested varied between different respondent groups:
- The type of training mentioned most frequently was the development of budget management skills. However, while local government and other organisations refer to specialist training (including business management, HR and procurement), none of these was referred to by headteachers. There was little appetite for specialist training from headteachers involved in the focus group discussions who generally did not wish to build their skills in these areas. There was broad agreement that tasks that did not relate to learning or teaching should be completed by someone trained in the relevant field.
- There were several mentions of continual professional development ( CPD) with a focus on leadership, and the need to give headteachers the time they require to complete this.
- A few headteachers emphasised that training had to be accessible to those based in rural areas and available to the 'wider workforce' of teachers to enable up-skilling and delegation at the school level.
4.5 Access to evidence based research
The need for evidence based research to support headteachers in school funding management was mentioned by all types of respondents, but most frequently cited by other organisations. Respondents suggested that this research would have two primary purposes:
- Identifying what does and does not work in school budget spending which could inform headteachers' decision making. There were many references from other organisations to conducting research which highlighted best practice, namely the effective use of resources.
- Measuring the impact of school-level interventions. More specifically, other organisations referred to the need to develop empirical indicators which would enable headteachers to assess the impact of targeted funding on the experiences and learning outcomes of pupils.
Describing what this might look like in practice, one other organisation said the following:
"To enable them to make the most effective decisions about resources at their school, headteachers need to have at their disposal suitable tools to be able to evaluate with certainty, the effectiveness of specific interventions. The introduction of Scottish National Standardised Assessments will be an important tool that supports the more effective decision-making in this context. At the same time, we believe that data gathered periodically through these assessments could be usefully supplemented by the more informal, fine grained and frequent data that can be gathered through formative assessments, enabling evaluation of specific interventions within a shorter time period."
Question 7: Accountability and reporting measures
The consultation asked about the factors that should be taken into account in devising accountability and reporting measures to support greater responsibility for funding decisions at school level. Half the respondents answered this question. The views expressed regarding accountability tended to focus on the roles of headteachers and local authorities:
- Some respondents, including many local authorities and a few headteachers/teachers, felt that headteachers should be accountable for the decisions they make in their school. It was argued, however, that accountability and reporting measures needed to be 'bureaucracy-light' so that these functions do not detract from learning or teaching capacity. Headteachers involved in the focus groups discussions sought clarity on exactly what they would be accountable for, and what this would mean in practice.
- Many respondents felt that, due to being democratically elected, local authorities should remain ultimately accountable for decisions over education funding.
- One respondent referred to the need for a clear complaint route for parents. Meanwhile, many headteachers/teachers (written respondents and focus group participants) raised concerns about ' coming under fire' from parents, and stated that they would want reassurance that adequate protections were in place.
Other responses to this question focused on the mechanism used in reporting measures and the type of data that should be monitored:
- There were several references to the need for clear and well understood reporting mechanisms.
- Some respondents referred to the need for standardised reporting system with Key Performance Indicators which would be developed and reviewed through research. Headteachers in focus groups expressed concern that targets and measures accounted for differences between schools operating in different local authority areas.
- On the aspects of school performance that should be assessed, suggestions included attendance, exclusion and attainment levels, school complaints and leaver destinations.