Governors in the North East have been told to expect funding, workload and recruitment pressures in their schools at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Northern Governance Conference in Newcastle today.
Laura McInerney, Contributing Editor of Schools Week and Founder of Teacher Tapp, was speaking about the ‘three big trends to watch out for’ to the 200 delegates in attendance from across the North.
She said: “As a governor myself, the first question anyone asks is ‘is there going to be anymore money’. I would be suprised that, as a governor, you won’t have already been asked this.
“But at the minute, the trend is that there are ’empty vaults’. Damian Hinds previously said that throwing money at problems is hardly ever a solution. He fundamentaly believes that we don’t need money, we need efficiency. We aren’t going to see any more money any time soon.”
Laura, who is a former teacher herself and now a governor at the school she previously taught at, told governors in attendance that the Government are being ‘clever’ with how they are approaching school funding.
She said: “We are seeing little pots of cash, which is a very clever move by the Government. It sounds to the electorate like a big amount, be it £4 million or £400 millon, and that it’s solving the problem by saying it’s a ‘mental health fund’, for example. But, quite frankly, it’s not enough.
Laura also warned Governors of the risk and reward implications of the time and effort it takes to bid for funding, with examples of schools even hiring professional bid writers to minimal success.
“Funding looks like it’s lucrative – but you spend a huge amount of time for very little benefit. Schools are spending a huge amount of time compared to the money they are getting back.
“As a governor, you should be asking those schools who have had success in this, but ask them what their success ratio is before you commit your time.”
Workload and resentment
Laura also spoke about the two additional trends that schools are facing, staff workload and recruitment, and the issues that governors must be aware of as a priority in their schools.
She said: “There is a huge amount going on outside of teaching hours. SLTs are getting worried as Ofsted are now going to be looking at workload, but what you need to ask is, what are staff doing that is creating this workload?
“As a governor, do you know what percentage of your staff are doing extra? There is a real issue in schools with where the working day ends and it’s causing a lot of discontent amongst staff, both teaching and non-teaching.”
Laura referenced data collected by Teacher Tapp and the pressures teachers felt to check emails over Christmas, and if the weren’t, the peer pressure they felt to do so if colleagues were, or even be part of a school’s WhatsApp group.
She told the conference: “This is really driving resentment in schools. Schools are not the only ones dealing with pressure – it affects anyone.
“For governors, you might work in an industry where this is normal. But for teachers, this way of working is unusual. It is so difficult for them to do additional duties as classroom working takes up most of the day.
“As a governor, you should be aware of this and ask your school if there is an out of office email policy and ask how it affects their staff.”
Laura warned delegates at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Northern Governance Conference that recruitment in the next few years could be even more difficult that it currently is.
She said: “There is a concern for the North East that, over the next 5 years, the diminishing number of 21 year olds will hit.
“Teacher training numbers are already down by a third across the country because we’re saying its expensive to train, there’s not a great salary and we expect you to be contactable all time. Graduates are just not interested in this career path.”
Laura also referenced the rise of flexible working in schools, and warned governors of the potential impact this could have on the strain on staffing in their school.
“Through a survey on Teacher Tapp, we found that if 40% of teachers dropped one day per week, we would need an extra 40,000 teachers.
“If you make part time more attractive, you will need more staff to fill that deficit and as a governor, you must think of how exactly you would manage this.”
Head to http://www.schoolsnortheast.com/events to find out what events are coming up for you and your school.