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Balancing the budget - curriculum and staffing

The curriculum model and staffing are where you are most likely to find financial savings.

By modelling a range of school specific curriculum scenarios you will establish the number of teaching groups, average class size, staff contact time and pupil–teacher ratio that you can afford.

The interactive curriculum costing analysis tool enables you, by modifying your input, to explore the impact of changes. The tool demonstrates this in a variety of ways, including the amount you spend on staffing per year group, contact ratio and full-time equivalent staff. Usefully, it will indicate “overspend” or “underspend” of year groups and key stages, and links to the overall budget. This tool, devised by HfL, is for use by secondary and middle schools.
Primary, special and secondary schools will also find a tool on the Education Funding Agency website that is suitable for all phases. This is part of a suite of resources called “schools financial health and efficiency”, under the title “strategic financial planning”. Sam Ellis, financial consultant with the Association of School and College Leaders, demonstrates two practical ways of discussing, reflecting and arriving at a strategic financial plan relevant to all phases. For strategic planning he recommends a broad-brush approach to creative thinking, to develop a three-year strategic plan. He provides a download of a nomogram, a paper-based slide rule, including instructions for its use. This is a very helpful tool when discussing a range of factors, including average class size, contact time and pupil–teacher ratio. His workbook also provides additional support in financial planning. Click on the link below and then select “Schools financial health and efficiency”.

An important piece of information in the jigsaw is to know the maximum average class size at which your school can operate, within the context of pupil admissions, the structure of the building, the numbers in different year groups and the need for intervention strategies. Knowing this gives you a solid base from which to work.

What class sizes does your school aim to achieve, and what is the educational rationale for this?

Each school will review the curriculum by asking a series of questions linking provision to learning outcomes and progress. Decisions will be informed by this data and shape the budget. These are school decisions, but if you are in danger of developing a deficit budget you will have to spend less. If you decide to maintain provision in an “overspending” area of the school, you have to spend less elsewhere.

Does your curriculum model match what you are funded for?

Do you run three year 6 classes when you are a two-form entry school?
Possible options – run two year 6 classes/ run three groups for English and maths only.

In key stage 1 do you have a number of small classes making this an expensive key stage?
Possible option – implement mixed age classes.

Are you providing more EYFS provision than you receive funding for?
Possible options – reduce the offer in line with funding/ partner with another provider to enable you to work within budget.
Have you a large number of withdrawal/intervention/extension groups running? How are you funding this? Does this mean that your average class size in reality is much lower than you have budgeted for?
Possible options – reduce number of sessions/ deploy specialist non-teaching staff to run some of the groups/ provide less withdrawal and place a proportion of support back in to the class for a reduced time.

Do you run an option structure at key stage 4 that has a number of small groups running, making it very expensive, a two-year commitment and ties up some of your expert staff?
Possible options – reduce the option offer/ partner with another school/reach an agreement with the teacher to deliver the option in a third session after school in reduced time.

Are you spending more on post-16 than sixth form revenue?
Possible options – reduce your portfolio of subjects share post-16 provision with a partner school/specialise in 11–16 and don’t run a sixth form.

David Kilgallon, Ex-Strategic Lead – Secondary, Herts for Learning - Discusses how sixth forms are an important part of provision and budget considerations

Contact time has a very significant effect on the affordability of curriculum models. During the period of funding growth, PPA expanded significantly in many schools. We are now in a climate where this may no longer be affordable.

There is a balance for each school to find, between maximising the time a teacher spends teaching and their non-contact time. If you are a school that provides generous PPA, by reducing this you may be able to maintain curriculum provision, therefore costing less, but have to balance the effect on colleagues. The Hertfordshire curriculum analysis presents patterns of non-contact and may be of use to secondary schools, although bear in mind that the data is historical.

James Roach, Headteacher and Sharon Carlyon, School Business Manager, Laurance Haines Primary School - Discuss financial economies and creative approaches to PPA time and beneficial outcomes for the school

Do you know how much extra flexibility is distributed across your staffing during the current academic year and how much this is costing you? The internal school structures models illustrate how much this can cost a school. The colleague who writes the timetable will be aware of these flexibilities and it is important that the SLT also understands the costs. This time could be engineered out to reduce costs.

Comparisons for pupil–teacher ratio can be found at

Your work around the curriculum will enable you to consider a range of scenarios, always with the learners in mind. Inevitably, this will lead you to staffing issues as you match the models to the staff you have and those you may wish to recruit.

> Curriculum models



Herts for Learning
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