Why would ICFP matter for us? Part 1

Having worked across the phases with the application of curriculum efficiency, I would suggest that there are some significant differences between the Primary and Secondary phases. However, the application of the metrics is important in both to examine, determine and achieve the best provision available for the learners. I believe without the metrics there has, as in any system, the creation of a response by many with the moral prerogative to work efficiently and find the best methodologies, however without systemisation of the lessons learned there is not a common understanding of what matters but a cultural based understanding, which often works well for many, but is not embedded in professional training or widely understood across the system. Working with many schools, I have been asked more than once how the ICFP principles apply in the primary phase and how does investment in a system to examine the application of these metrics represent value for money and a benefit where there are so many assumed structural givens that are different from secondary structures where it is assumed they apply easily.

Many schools and MATs within England are being encouraged to use systems that report Integrated Curriculum and Finance Planning (ICFP) metrics as a matter of course as the climate of school efficiently gains momentum and the culture of accountability becomes all the more transparent. I would also note that the source of funding and the independent or international school systems hold little difference in this regard across the education industry. The metrics are, in the main, related to units of delivery resourced by a single qualified teacher and populated by a target number of learners, further potentially supported by ancillary staff, or not. Thus government, parent or grant funded education systems, with varying target group sizes and agreed salaries for the staff within a organisational system, the basis of these efficiency metrics work wherever they are applied.

I am going to deal with this in two parts, firstly some thoughts on the primary phase implications then to look at secondary phase.

Primary Phase

Consider these characteristics of primary phase structures:

  • There is a widely accepted understanding that each class equates to one teacher and that PPA (planning, preparation and assessment time) is covered by an HLTA (higher level teaching assistant.) This ‘generalist’ view of teaching is accepted in the primary phase, differently from the granular view of secondary teaching where it is ‘specialist’ focused teaching in the main.
    • Using the metrics it is possible to explore the feasibility of increasing the enhancement of teachers time by exploring the cost difference between a proportion of the elements that could put more time teachers to do the leadership and management tasks while children experiencing teacher led activities. This is dependent on classes being ‘full’.
  • Class sizes are built around units of 30. Reducing the class size is desirable, but challenging, as the unit class size has been used as a base to generate all of the funding models and teacher salary scales (consider the EEF Toolkit advice around where reducing class size would be most effective.)
    • This is where better analysis of this dynamic will better inform the debate about a fairer distribution of funding across the whole education system. Using the modelling potential within ICFP, it is possible to see how this might be achieved, reducing class sizes with teachers to enhance the baseline delivery. although some change to the first point above might be required to achieve it.
    • Modelling the impact where the planned admission number is not divisible by 30 and the planned delivery model is essential to achieve success and equity for learners. 
    • Mixed year group classes are not favoured but essential when the intake is not a multiple of 30. Where this is necessary it is possible to model the rolling impact of changing roll to ensure this works for a school with a small or non-standard roll.
  • Using modelling it is possible to see how and where additional resource can be  achieved and to explore the best use of teaching assistants with learners of high and special needs.
  • The more experienced your staff (moving toward the Upper Pay Scale) the more challenging your ability to keep to the ICFP proportional spend indicators.
    • But does this mean encouraging experienced staff to move on so that the body of staff are cheaper? Modelling the staff profile is as important as modelling the curriculum profile. There may be other modelling strategies that can be employed to mitigate this cost. Others across the system have used clever methods with the new academy freedoms to make this work.

It may not be overly convincing in this case to add a comment about this but I believe that we are getting to a clearer understanding that less independent learners require more specific input from teachers to lay the good foundations of learning. To be able to understand the relative input which enhances the delivery models across the phases would be beneficial to model the possible ways forward. I believe that we are beginning to see this born out in this modelling environment. More specific investment in early years learning KS1 and KS2 where more used of blended learning and less face to face experiences at KS5 become more possible, particularly in the light of recent experience during the pandemic.

You may be interested to read more from my article for online journal the headteacher, ‘Getting to Grips with ICFP focused on why ICFP is different in its application within the primary context. 

Part two of this blog follows shortly.