If someone asked you whether you’d like to teach smaller classes or teach bigger classes, with more PPA time and/or a higher salary, what would you say? Would it matter to the quality of teaching the pupils received and the outcomes they achieved?
Below I’ve sketched out a few thoughts about how we could choose to spend our money in school. I understand the argument that schools need more money but sense there will be little extra in the pot over the coming years or possibly decade.
Below are some base data and assumptions. There are four classes to be taught (A-D); there is one teacher in each class, which has 30 pupils in. The pupils are taught for 25 hours a week with teachers teaching 20 hours and having 5 hours PPA. Each teacher is paid a salary of £35,000. Whilst these may not be your individual circumstances they are reasonable averages/assumptions.
The first thing to note is that whilst there is 100 hours of lesson time, across the four classes, there is only 80 hours of teaching available. Each teacher needs some PPA time. So I’ve decided a fifth teacher is required (20 hours contact time; 5 hours PPA) so that the four classes have a qualified teacher in front of them all the time. This is a leadership decisions and others are possible; unqualified teachers, teaching assistants, shorter school days but these are all for other blogs. The total wage bill is £175,000 and I’ve fixed this for the remainder of the post.
How would you feel about teaching a class of 40 pupils but having twice as much PPA; that is, 10 hours a week instead of 5? There are issues of class room discipline to think about and how to re-imagine assessment and marking in with the demands of the larger class size. You’d have far more time outside the class room to collaborate with colleagues, plan schemes of learning and analyse assessment data. Would this be appealing?
If you want to push this further two classes of sixty would see the five teachers each teaching just 10 hours and having 15 hours for collaborative planning, assessment and professional development. Would this have a positive or negative impact overall on the quality of teaching and pupils’ outcomes?
Now this is where it could get very controversial. Imagine classes of 60 pupils but with only three teachers teaching, 16/17 hours a week, instead of the five teacher model. In this model each teacher is paid an extra £20,000+. Is this an attractive option? It essentially eliminates the teacher shortage problem we currently have overnight, as we only need about 60% of the current number of teachers. The profession would be increasingly difficult to get in and could be increasingly choosy about who is let in. What would this do for the quality of teaching in our class rooms?
I’m not sure which option teachers would prefer; we tend to stick with the status quo and sometimes for very good reasons. Governors and parents may also have a thing or two to say as well.
It’s easy to demand more money. Politically this means either raising taxes; never that popular with the electorate, though a LibDem idea of 2p more on the basic rate of tax for education was viewed extremely positively. The other option of more money for education is less for other departments; health, social services, defence and so on. Expect some tough choices ahead.
The Future of School Funding: Doing More with Less or Less with Less is one of the key provocations aimed at encouraging discussion at the Headteachers’ Roundtable Summit on the 2nd February 2017. If you would like to attend the event more details are here.