For headteachers and governors, there’s sometimes a difficult choice to be made between balancing the budget and sustaining an enriched and fit-for-purpose curriculum that allows the best outcomes for pupils. This is especially true with schools facing tighter budgets due to increased staffing costs.
The curriculum is strongly linked to pupil factors and current staffing levels, which, at 70% to 80% of allocated budget costs, is the most expensive part of running a school but is the core business.
Governors and senior leadership teams need to ensure that it’s staffed as efficiently as possible and future proofed for the next few cohorts of pupils coming through the school.
Teaching pupils is a school’s most important job and having a curriculum that matches their needs is the highest priority. You should start by building the curriculum that you want and then tweak it, if it’s not affordable or sustainable.
Once you’ve built the curriculum, it’s important for the person setting the timetable and the business manager to work closely together to ensure that it’s financially viable. There are some key ratios that need to be calculated in relation to the curriculum’s efficiency, which will help to make it the best fit for your school:
- Teaching staff as proportion of budget
- Pupil versus staff ratio
- Contact ratio
- The cost per lesson / period.
Calculating these ratios will show you how efficient your curriculum is.
Governors need to scrutinise the ratios and benchmark against other, similar schools to ensure that your school has the right number of teaching and non-teaching members of staff. If there are differences with similar schools, you would need to investigate them to understand what they are and how your school can benefit from working more efficiently.
You should review other costs at least annually to ensure best value, so that you’re spending money where you should be – on your pupils’ curriculum needs.
If your curriculum is unachievable financially, you’ll need to make some difficult decisions to ensure that pupils get the best possible outcomes. By using the Department for Education toolkit, you can support decision making in your school by asking probing questions to ensure a financially viable and sustainable curriculum for years to come.