Education in Spite of Policy
Financial Delegation and Management of Schools: preparing for practice
Hywel Thomas with Gordon Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth Nicholson 1989
Cassell Educational Ltd
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 1990
Note (August 2018) I apologise for the absence of page references in this review.
This A4-size spiral-bound book is not one to sit down and read from cover to cover: it is essentially a training manual, containing pages which may be photocopied or reproduced for use on an overhead projector.
It is in two parts. Part I, Context and Cases, provides background information on financial delegation to schools together with two very enlightening case-studies demonstrating experience in both primary and secondary schools in Solihull. Part II (the majority of the book) is headed Preparing for Practice and covers financial delegation, formula funding, open enrolment, staffing delegation and performance indicators. Finally, there is a very useful bibliography and an index of subjects.
In their introduction to the book, the authors suggest that the 1988 Education Act 'redefines the distribution of power and authority within the government of education', in particular the delegation to school governors and head teachers of many of the powers and responsibilities which traditionally rested with the local education authorities. The purpose of the book is to enable all those working within the education service to learn 'new roles, responsibilities and skills'.
I found the case studies in Part I particularly instructive. During the first year of financial autonomy, for example, the head of a primary school set four ground rules: to be financially cautious, not to disrupt or increase the staff workload, to involve the governors and to look for improving 'pupil opportunity'. I was also pleased to note that 'the head's involvement in the budget now takes less than two hours a week'!
The bulk of the book, Part II, provides a huge amount of training material which will be invaluable for use with staff and governors. In fact, the authors suggest that the book is for advisers and inspectors, governors of schools, LEA elected members and their officers, parents, teachers at all levels of seniority and the non-teaching staff with whom they work, as well as for those with training responsibilities in this area. It is interesting to note, too, that there are tasks which ask participants to consider pupil involvement.
The five chapters each consist of a number of themes. Chapter 3, Financial Delegation, for example, includes Resourcing the Schools, Understanding the Budgetary System, Resource Management and Resource Decisions. Each of these is then divided into Units. For each Unit there are information pages and/or task pages. Almost all these pages may be photocopied or reproduced for use on an overhead projector and they are excellent. All the pages are clearly set out, the information pages taking the form of tables, graphs, charts or pre-task reading material. The task pages in each Unit are preceded by a Task Title Page which lists the theme, the aims, the time likely to be needed, the objectives, method, materials and possible outcomes of the task.
I am particularly glad that the last chapter deals with performance indicators. Much has been said and written about these of late: this book presents the subject in a clear and logical way which should enable the staff and governors of schools to understand the issues and offers practical help in implementing appropriate measures.
I wonder how many teachers have yet begun to grasp the huge range of responsibilities which Local Management of Schools implies. The authors make it quite clear that LMS is very much more than just managing a budget. Their book opens up the discussion and alerts us all to the issues in an informed and structured manner.
As head teacher of a school taking over control of its own budget this year, I find this book absolutely invaluable. It is a fund of useful information and a ready-made training manual. It covers an enormous diversity of subjects, ranging from the appointment and dismissal of staff to the opportunities for and implications of letting school buildings; from drawing up a school policy on the use of supply cover to the development of methods of presenting performance information to parents.
I have no doubt that this book will prove immensely useful for teachers and governors and I commend it to anyone with responsibility for implementing local management or for training others to do so.
This review was first published in Forum 33(1) Autumn 1990 31.