Linking educational funding with learning activity



Professor Richard Teese 2008

Back in December 2007 the OECD published a report entitled Reviews of National Policies for Education – Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland. I’ve written previously about Professor Richard Teese – the main reporter for that report -who criticised the Scotish education system for not making a strong enough link between funding and educational outcomes. I picked up on this same theme in a related post when considering further how funding might be used as a lever to improve educational outcomes for children.  However, over the last few months I’ve been giving this entire area a great deal more thought and have been researching how we might change the way we do things in Scotland.

I suppose my interest was initially triggered by considering how we could fund sixth year students who wanted to take Open University courses through the YASS scheme. The problem that I encountered was where would such funding come from to allow such students to follow these courses?  The reality is that all available funding is locked up in schools through the traditional secondary school funding formula which is typically based upon a per capita allocation which takes account of the number of students in the school.

It is this “devolved” budget which pays for teachers and support staff, allows resources to be purchased and covers any other expenditure deemed to be the responsibility of the school.

The alternative model I have been exploring is one which identifies the “per capita” allocation as a flexible learning credit which the student can use to access learning at a place and time of their own choosing, e.g. their own school, YASS, Queen Margaret University in East Lothian, a Further Education College or even another school in East Lothian.

For ease of exemplification let’s say that every senior student in East Lothian currently carries a nominal “value” to the school of £3000. Before the commencement of an academic session students would select their “learning programmes” from a wide variety of courses and opportunities ranging from their own school’s traditional senior school curriculum or other learning opportunities which may be available outwith their own school. The system I have in mind is that the funding would follow the student. In such a scenario some students may select to study a distance learning programme with a university which carries an SCQF credit equivalent to HNC, Higher or Advanced Higher – the payment of such courses would directly follow the student and be credited to the relevant organisation delivering the learning.  Most  students would choose to continue to study courses at their own school and the funding would remain within that establishment.

Of course there would be some real concerns that schools might see a drain of funding from their own school as students choose to study elsewhere.  However, one of the benefits from such a scheme is that it would incentivise schools to co-ordinate their senior courses to allow certain schools to specialise on delivering some programmes which currently are not viable when only recruiting from within their own school.

The last element of this possible scheme is that funding would also take account of student outcomes. I’m not yet sure how we might be able to achieve this but I reckon that a certain proportion of the funding for each student would be linked to educational outcome and would only be released to the organisation claiming the funding on confirmation of outcome, e.g results. 

Over the coming months I’ll be researching and writing about this further but in the meantime I can recommend the following links for those who might be interested in following this up themselves.

System Funding Council funding 1999 – grant letter – funding student learning – Redesigning Public Education

1 thought on “Linking educational funding with learning activity

  1. I’ve expressed my concerns in the past in these columns about the YASS scheme and I remain concerned having seen this post. I hope that East Lothian will not make any transitional changes to the current system without wide consultation.

    I can see that some of this is trying to address small class sizes in year 6 but should not one instead consider why schools are encountering small classes for core subjects like maths, physics and chemistry? In this new age of the discredited banking economy, demonstrating the need to return to a true production economy, we should take steps in the early years of education to ensure that pupils are motivated (yes motivated, not (sic) incentivised!) to take the core subjects at Advanced Higher.

    That way, not only would we potentially improve the British economy but we would not need to consider busing pupils around the county to form one sixth year science class.

    To add some perspective to this, the number of pupils taking science subjects at my school, when I was in sixth year, was roughly equivalent to the number for the entire county of East Lothian last year!

    Ian Smith

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