I’m attending the Association of Directors of Social Work conference in Crieff.
One the key themes emerging is that of personalisation of services to users. The social work field is light years ahead of education in terms of using a mixed economy system for delivering services, by commissioning others from the private and voluntary sector to provide a wide range of short and laong term requirements.
As I was listening to the presentations my mind turned to how education might develop such a model. It’s been something I’ve been considering for a while but the cogs seemed to click together this morning.
The starting point for this is how do we really devolve services to our communities?
What follows is definitely “blue sky” and might be disconcerting for some but I’ve found that sometimes we need to start from the extreme perspective if we are to shift our ground.
The local authority would set the local outcomes which schools would have to work towards.
Each child would carry an educational value credit which directly related to money which would go to the school. All other current budgets would be rolled together and added to the educational value credit.
If a child left the school the money would follow them – even part way through a year.
The school would deliver – though a contract – the educational service for the local authority in that community. If the outcomes were not achieved in a given period of time then another service deliverer would have to be employed.
The school would purchase services from the local authority – or other providers e.g. finance support, personnel, staff development and even quality improvement and assurance.
The authority would maintain responsibility for strategic estate planning, such a new school buildings but all other items would be devolved.
Schools in a community could combine their resources to purchase a service from elsewhere.
The pupil support function could also be delivered by a independent unit commissioned by the authority and underpinned by a contract arrangement.
Parents would have a significant role in the strategic direction and monitoring of the school and would be involved in the review of outcomes at the end of a contract period.
I know one of the major concerns would be the fragmentation of the current system which is building very vibrant learning communities where schools work together. However, if we believe that partnership working improves outcomes – and outcomes will be used to judge the effectiveness of a school – then the leverage for it to happen will be even greater than it currently is. In a similar way the need to engage with other agencies would be built into the outcome agreement.
Of course we could do it, or something with aspects of this. The thing is though that the current system suits many – particularly those within it – start changing or even discussing ideas like this and it can be threatening to those who complain the most about them and us and how bad things are. Make changes for the better and there are no longer legitimate reasons for complaining…And despite my Pollyanaesque view of the world, I’m well aware that systems have bred this kind of blame culture which sadly sometimes seems to be self perpetuating and those who cry blame the loudest are the ones who want real change least.
Devolved provision impacts negatively on children who experience difficulties at school, especiaslly those whose parents do not ask for support.
Do you envisage those with ASN being granted more ‘credit’ than academically more successful pupils? If so, how will that be measured? If not, then their learning needs may well be overlooked.
Support for Leaning teachers’ time is being reduced or dispensed with entirely as we speak. If individual schools were responsible for all education provision, it is likely that in some cases the ‘Matthew effect’ will take place: The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.
What a terrifying idea! Does this mean that teachers would no longer have job security and would have to vie desperately with one another to work the longest hours, engineer the highest marks and have the fewest exclusions for fear of being sacked or as you put it ‘replaced by another service provider’? (I’m not saying I don’t have the highest ideals here.) One of the most liberating things about working in a vocational field is the ‘we’re all in this together and stiving for excellence’ ethos. I hate the idea of schools being sort of private community entities, to me it sounds rather like those other disasterous privatisation ideas we’ve had over the last couple of decades….energy, rail infrastructure, hospitals etc.
Oh dear, dare I disagree with you? Perhaps I’d better not submit my comment. Oh what the hell…
You raise legitimate concerns, that’s why the system must be designed to ensure that such things don’t happen.I’ll be setting out some ideas over the next few posts.
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