Return on investment

Our recent blog post Magnificent Seven’ outlined the seven measures used within the Integrated Curriculum Finance Planning (ICFP) indicators of school efficiency. I just want to take a moment to consider a measure that many are grappling with and some feel has little, or even negative impact, on a school. I will say at the beginning that I believe it can be one of the most powerful indicators of a schools capacity for improvement, but then again, I would! 
I have defined this important measure as Curriculum Enhancement – an indicator of curriculum size compared to a basic provision, where the average class size across a year group is 27 for 416 yearold learners and 17 in a group for Post 16 learners. Other systems call this measure ‘Headroom’ or ‘Bonus, both of which to me lead to a value judgement and almost an enforced alternative of intervention when things don’t go to plan, whereas ‘Enhancement’ speaks of a strategic decision to act above and beyond the normal where is it possible and within the budget. If we were to organise so that all classes had the optimum number of children in them, then the Basic Provision is the number of sessions taught in a timetable cycle providing for these learners. Calculated by the total number of learners in the establishment divided by the optimum number of learners in a class and multiplied by the number of sessions within a cycle. 
  • Example One – A school capacity of 1200 pupils would have a ‘Basic Curriculum’ as a typical Secondary 11-16 organisation. (Based on a 25hour week)

1200 learners/27 x 25 = 1111 hours 

  • Example Two – A school capacity of 420 pupils would have a ‘Basic Curriculum’ as a big Primary 4-11 organisation. (Based on a 25hour week) 

420 learners/27 x 25 = 389 hours

In Example One should we find the actual curriculum model has 1300 teaching sessions (hours) then the curriculum is enhanced by 189 sessions. This curriculum would be described as 17% enhanced, structurally 189 teaching lessons will have been modelled to deliver the goals of the leaders.

In Example Two should we find the actual delivery model has 409 hours, but the roll is actually 210 then the enhancement will be 80%. This school has one too many classes in each year group possibly due to falling roll and needs to consider the structural setup of the school to ensure affordability.  

Then if we consider the cost of each session, normally calculated within most schools as around £1900 per hour per week across the year, then the indicative cost of the curriculum enhancement can be projected. In Example One the cost would be £359,100 and in Example Two £399,000. This is the cost of putting teaching staff in the classroom to deliver these sessions. Now the judgement has to be made as to whether this can be afforded and whether it delivers the strategy for which it represents. Both of these figures are real and can make significant impact on deficit reduction on one side and significant ability to invest in learning on the other.

This is the reason we talk of efficient, effective and ethical curriculum. I would ask whether this level of funding is essential for the strategy it represents. The truth is that there will be all sorts of reasons why some of the enhancement is needed but the question is how much is affordable within the budget and is it delivering the outcomes that this level of investment would warrant? Only you can answer that question, but it becomes real when you are able to explore the level of enhancement against the cost of delivery. No other method gives the clarity or ‘return on investment’ analysis. 
Just a quick thought. Have you ever considered that the gained time after a Year 11 finish their exam season could be costing a school over £1M in unused teaching time? £1900 x 50 periods x 400 periods for an 8 form school x 5 weeks between the end of the exams and the end of the year. Gainfully used development time?
Have you explored your curriculum provision against a Basic Curriculum measure, or have you looked at what you think you should provide from an educational perspective? The Curriculum Enhancement metric will get you thinking about purpose, investment and intent.
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