The Fair Funding to Achieve Excellence and Equity in Education consultation invited views on the current funding of education, and the principles and considerations for future funding arrangements, including national consistency, delegation of responsibility, accountability and reporting. It also covered the support required by headteachers under a more devolved funding approach. The consultation ran from 15 th June 2017 - 13 th October 2017.
This report reviews the 85 written responses to the consultation. These were submitted by individuals, representative bodies and organisations. They were categorised into the following respondent groups: local authorities, headteacher/teachers, parents, other organisations, and unassigned individuals. In addition, 6 focus groups were conducted with headteachers across Scotland and the main messages from these discussions are included in this report.
The aim of this report is to present an analysis of the comments received, representing all the material submitted. The approach to the analysis took account of the range of responses received, and the varied material submitted, and provided a robust thematic framework for the analysis based on, but not constrained by, the discussion questions themselves.
Advantages and disadvantages of the current funding system
Respondents identified a range of advantages to the current system. The involvement of local authorities in school funding was considered to be particularly valuable as it was felt to guarantee democratic accountability and the provision of specialist services.
Devolved School Management ( DSM) was seen to provide headteachers with a degree of control over funding, but there was some frustration over the lack of transparency and the apparent variation in the level of flexibility and autonomy granted to headteachers working in different local authority areas.
There was broad agreement that the level of bureaucracy within the current system was a major disadvantage. This included lengthy reporting mechanisms resulting from multiple funding streams and burdensome procurement processes.
Respondents raised concerns about the heavy workload currently facing headteachers. There was broad agreement that the time involved in completing certain tasks under DSM schemes is preventing headteachers from focusing on attainment within schools.
Future systems of funding: where and how funding should be targeted, allocated and managed
In general, the view of many was that a Pupil Equity Fund ( PEF) type approach to school funding would bring a range of benefits. However, there were anxieties about exactly how money should be allocated, and many respondents stressed the importance of assessing the needs of pupils in a more rounded way.
Many respondents felt that headteachers should have control over staffing, staffing structures and educational resources. Whilst some argued that headteachers should be responsible for dealing with additional support needs, concern was raised over the cost of specialist service provision ( e.g. sensory impairment). There was broad agreement across all respondent types that headteachers should not be responsible for utilities and building maintenance.
Increasing funding powers at a school level was seen to improve the responsiveness of schools to local challenges. However, some risks were also identified if schools had greater powers over educational funding, particularly operational risks related to fragmentation, regulation and consistency.
Allocating a greater proportion of funding directly to clusters was not supported by most respondents. While the potential value of clusters from a functional point of view was recognised, most respondents thought that using clusters as a funding conduit would add a layer of bureaucracy and complexity.
Respondents felt that the role of the proposed Regional Improvement Collaboratives was unclear, and therefore found it difficult to comment in detail. However, there were some concerns around the extensive geographical scale of these collaboratives, and respondents felt that decision making could be too far removed from individual schools.
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. The support required included administration, financial management, and building maintenance issues.
Respondents raised concerns about the level of accountability that 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. Whilst 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.