Dream the Impossible Dream

ICFP, Integrated Curriculum Finance Planning, coined by Kate Copley a Deputy Director within the Department for Education (DFE), is the term that the DFE is now using to describe a process that has had a number of names in recent years. Some will recognise ‘Curriculum Led Finance Planning’ (CLFP) used by Outward Grange Academy Trust (OGAT) and various NPQH/NPQEL providers to describe a process. OGAT developed a practice within their academies, under the leadership of Sir Michael Wilkins and now Martyn Oliver, within their school improvement arsenal focussed on ensuring establishments ran within budget and were capable of investing finances in education practices. Other Multi Academy Trusts (MATS) have worked on developing similar methodologies, to ensure budget control using spreadsheet based analysis of metrics. 
To explore ICFP a little further let us look at some principles. For an education establishment to work it must buy sufficient staff to deliver the curriculum it has designed. Establishing the shape and size of the required staffing around the curriculum provision which is right and affordable for the number of children within the school determines the principle of ‘Curriculum Led’ or ‘Integrated Curriculum and Finance Planning.’ The impossible dream of achieving both broad and balanced curriculum and financial control is possible and hence the process we call SMARTcurriculum
If we accept that staffing is the largest expense (usually 80% of total cost in the secondary sector and 90% in the Primary) because we buy the staffing to deliver the curriculum that we design, then gaining a good understanding of the curriculum size is key to controlling the budget with all the moral purpose and breadth that it should contain. Of course there are factors that impact the provision; leadership and management time to control the quality of delivery; issues around the number of learners within the establishment (the Pupil Admission Number) often set without any understanding of the implications to efficiency; falling and increasing roll and local competition for places within the and; the building contract provision with the Private Funded Initiative (PFI) where some staff are contracted through external services, often the company that is providing the service contract.

So, what we come to is the main question what are the measures that we use to control the key spending in an establishment?” The definition laid out by the Department for Education ICFP team includes some key purposes and 7 metrics. 

Key Purposes

  • Establishing a strategic plan looking several years ahead.
  • Identifying a curriculum to meet learners needs based on pupil data.
  • Refining this through whole team discussion including business professionals.
  • Making decisions based on key data/metrics.
  • Bench-marking these against establishments in similar circumstances.
  • Re-iterating these until there is a curriculum that is affordable.

The Metrics

  1. Teacher Contact Ratio
  1. Learner (Pupil) Teacher Ratio
  1. Average Class Size
  1. Average Teacher Cost
  1. Percentage of expenditure on teaching staff
  1. Senior Leadership FTE (Full Time Equivalent) as a percentage of total teaching FTE
  1. Learner (Pupil) Adult Ratio (i.e. All staff FTE)
There will be many other metrics that impact on each of the seven factors above, the key is to understand them and consider the elements that impact them.
What matters and what determines the major spend? The major impact is the size of the curriculum as this determines the major cost of running an establishment. Failing to understand its impact or relying on legacy or historical structures is making a major impact on our current funding pressures. This resultant practice is described by its title, ‘Integrated Curriculum and Finance Planning’ and will impact the major spend for any educational organisation. The outcome cannot be understated; the goal of a balanced budget is not such an impossible dream!