£7bn 363 colleges 4.2m learners 263,257 staff

The smiley face of stats

Channel 4 is investing in a way of making Ofsted reports easy to understand by parents.

Report Card will “bring together multiple data sets to provide a newly accessible way of researching and comparing schools. This product will go beyond the idea of league tables to show schools in context and provide a meaningful interpretation of what they are really like – the atmosphere, internal organisation, teaching standards, facilities, discipline and much more”


An achingly cool design consultancy which takes blindingly innovative approaches to design has developed the concept to this stage. One example of their work is the curved map which includes both a 3D view and a bird’s eye view of a city

Curved Manhattan : click to enlarge

So what are they doing with Ofsted stats ?

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February 5, 2010 Posted by | data, info tech, SMART goals | , , , | Leave a comment

It’s only EMA Emotion

Interesting to keep an eye on austerity sur le continent

Teachers in Greece are going on strike thrice in the next month as Greece’s austerity programme begins [wage freeze for public sector workers  for starters]

In almost-neighbouring Romania the austerity package includes sacking 15,000 teachers, and  Gavin Hewitt [him off the telly] points out that there are four times as many teachers per student in Greece as in Finland, so ………

Finland and Sweden are the model for much current thinking on reshaping education after the 6 May election

And there is also a great deal of eyeing up of previously sacred cows.

There is, for example, some scepticism about the value of  Educational Maintenance Allowances [shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove has called the EMA a flop],  although EMAs do have  solid research evidence of their effectiveness.

In colleges, EMAs seem to work, but  “How to Save £50bn” has an uncomfortable analysis of EMA

Chart 2.1 shows that while there has been an increase in the percentage of 16-18 year olds in education or training since the EMA was launched, from 75.7 per cent in 2004 to 79.7 per cent in 2008, this is negligible … also a decrease in 16-18 year olds in employment, from 14.7 per cent to 10.0 per cent.

… NEETs increased from 9.6  to 10.3 per  between 2004 and 2008.
These are poor results, and show that EMA is not a good use of money.

  • Abolishing EMA would save £530,000,000 a year.
  • Are the figures in Chart 2.1 valid?

and then

  • Is EMA a “front line service” or is it a back office function, and therefore saveable?
  • Any savings from scrapping EMA would be small beer when set against the £175bn deficit – but every little helps.
  • Taking a bolder line,  could the [complicated and rigorous but existing] EMA system be harnessed as a participation-led college funding system. Young people cash in their course credit, and continue to get a cash back EMA  in return for attendance and achievement ?

February 4, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPad SchmiPad!

Seb Schmoller has sent me his fortnightly email newsletter on e-learning for a few years now – but for some reason, I had never twigged that he was based in Sheffield – duh!

Anyway, his latest newsletter arrived as the iPad was being launched, and it showed something very much cheaper – the snappily titled  OLPC XO3 ebook reader .

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February 3, 2010 Posted by | info tech | , , | Leave a comment

£2bn wasted each year

“How £2 billion of the Further Education budget is wasted on useless activities – and how we should reform the system”  looks like something that I couldn’t pass by without comment! although it has taken a couple of weeks to digest what is being claimed.

Alison Wolf explained what and how on video here – and published the document here and – party political warning! on ConservativeHome .

In the week that most colleges in England have been told that their Adult Funding budget for next September is being  cut by 10%-20% is she talking sense?

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January 28, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding, further education, SMART goals | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart cut : pay teachers more

Teaching in small classes doesn’t do anything for learners – it has no effect on their outcomes.

Small classes are boring for students, and for teachers.

Small classes are not needed, because so few people need them.

Small classes take money out of the teaching budget, and stop teachers being paid more.

So in considering how to save money in colleges, we certainly don’t need to protect small classes.

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January 22, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding, SMART goals | , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s keep it simple please

We do need to get smarter at running further education colleges, but lets keep it simple please.

I have been looking at the “Expert Advice” from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills [UKCES is the outcome from the Leitch report] on how to “build a more strategic, agile and labour-market led employment and skills system” from Autumn 2009

Much of it is about how UKCES sees that we should “simplify”  funding, qualifications etc , but some of their proposals desperately need to go through the reality wringer.
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January 18, 2010 Posted by | austerity funding, SMART goals | , , , , | Leave a comment

TES saves schools £1bn a year – what is it doing for FE?

Politicians have talked a lot about protecting “frontline services”, and in December, the government published “a radical programme to put the frontline first”

Putting the Frontline First: smarter government December 2009

Frontline First : http://www.hmg.gov.uk/frontlinefirst.aspx and in sidebar file Box

This plan delivers better public services for lower cost.
It outlines how the Government will improve public service outcomes while achieving the fiscal consolidation that is vital to helping the economy grow. The plan  …. save money through sharper delivery.

A paragraph on page 21 caught my eye

Opening up public data and information paves the way for innovations like the Times Educational Supplement (TES) shared lesson planner forum, which saves time and resources, potentially releasing up to £1 billion of teaching time by 2011

TES Lesson planner  http://www.tes.co.uk/resourcehub.aspx?navcode=70

This is quite a saving, and worth practicing my Level 1 key Skills Numeracy on.

  1. Assume that the TES will save us £ by the end of 2011
  2. And that the £1bn is a total saving ie £500,000,000 in each of 2010 and 2011
  3. And that a teaching hour costs £100
  4. The number of teaching hours saved would be 500,000,000/100 = 5,000,000
  5. There were 441,200 full time equivalent teachers in all state funded schools in England & Wales in Jan 2008, so say 500,000 for the UK as a whole
  6. Therefore teaching hours saved per fte teacher = 10
  7. Therefore increase in number of hours taught by teachers would be 10
  8. I am not sure how school teacher contracts are structured, or how the “saved” hours translate into money. But maybe it works like this, that the TES Lesson Planning Forum provides ready-made lesson plans quickly and easily, so one of the Teacher Development Days is not needed, and the allocated hours used for cover teaching, so saving £1bn on supply teachers during the year?

Instead of struggling into school through the snow today, no doubt head teachers are using their time productively by reading the TES most attentively, and fleshing out the bones of para 21 of Putting the Frontline First.

Fine for the schools sector – but what has the TES ever done for us?

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

16-19s at a peak this year, and will now decline steadily

It is never easy to get figures for the numbers of young people, but here are two snapshots from the Office for National Statistics [and with my thanks to Tom Morrison, Regional Observatory Manager, East of England Development Agency for his help with navigation]

17 yr olds in England to 2019. Source data and graph from the File Box in sidebar

First : the number of young people was at a peak in 2009, and will fall steadily in every year starting from 2010 until 2019.

Second: the number of young people year by year across England and Wales will fall by 15% over the next 10 years.

Year 17 year olds In England & Wales, a 15% drop in the number of 17 year olds by the end of the period.
By 2013, the drop will have been 8%
2009 706,500
2011 672,900
2013 655,100
2015 642,400
2017 625,300 Data from Office for National Statistics http://www.statistics.gov.uk
2019 600,900

Then, looking only at English Regions, the nearest useful figures are for the 15-19 age group.

Young People in English Regions to 2019. Source data in File Box in sidebar

Region 2009 2011 2013 2015 2017 2019 drop 2009-2019
East 357.6 352.2 348.3 341.2 331.9 332.4 7%
London 427.1 414.5 406.8 398.3 388.7 395.7 7%
South East 541.8 527.9 517.0 506.1 491.0 489.2 10%
South West 335.0 326.9 322.4 316.3 305.6 302.4 10%
England 3298.4 3195.0 3117.9 3038.7 2935.6 2928.7 11%
East Midlands 295.5 285.9 278.6 271.5 262.8 261.6 11%
West Midlands 358.2 344.5 336.4 328.1 315.7 314.3 12%
Yorks and Humber 352.2 341.0 330.8 320.3 307.6 305.9 13%
North West 461.9 440.0 422.3 408.1 391.0 387.6 16%
North East 169.0 162.1 155.2 148.8 141.3 139.6 17
Data: Office for National Statistics: 2006-based subnational population projections

Third: Over England as a whole, there will be 11% fewer 15-19s

Fourth: Even in London, there will be a steady drop in the number of young people, though at 7% it is less than the all-England figure of 11%.
Across the North, the drop is greater than 15%.

A glib, facile and superficial response to the figures would be that a major smart cut is now easy to imagine, and we can feed a projected 15% reduced spend in the FE budget  into the savings which will help reduce the national financial deficit.

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Numbers of young people | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Panic – Opportunities in the Age of Austerity

We may have overspent by £175 billion or so this year, so that austerity looks like the order of the day until that deficit is reduced, but “Don’t Panic” is the policy-savvy theme of “Opportunities in the Age of Austerity”. Each contributor looked at one area of public spending to identify opportunities for reducing the deficit that would not damage progressive aims, rather than coming up with a ‘top ten’ list of spending cuts.

Paul Lawrence heads up the national KPMG FE Unit, and contributed “Further Education – making smart cuts and improving efficiency”. Every couple of years, I come across something which acts as a road map for the future, and I think in this I have found the outline of where we are heading.

His view is that “smart cuts” will result from

  • attitude and behavioural changes
  • efficiency gains
  • reorganisations and partnerships

and that they will catalyse better practice.

On reorganisations and partnerships, he starts from the premise [or is it a consensus?] that there are too many small colleges. In the context of savings, small colleges can’t, and he proposes that merger should be seen as a pro-active and positive business arrangement rather than a rescue package. And “modern mergers” encompass a range of formal collaborative partnerships and sub-branding – one existing model would be HE in FE, where University HE provision runs as a separate brand under the FE college umbrella.

If attitudes change so that mediocre and under-performance are not acceptable because they cannot be subsidised, colleges should be allowed to fail [ ie “recover quickly or not at all”].
On this, FE is some way behind the schools sector, where it seems to be a commonplace that schools close, often to be re-opened as a new institution.

“There is scope to make the most efficiency gains from the most inefficient providers” is another of his messages which piles on the pressure.

In all, considerable head of steam building up for fewer colleges, and for life getting very tough for any college which is considered to be struggling, in terms of Ofsted quality, financial outturn, funding performance and learner numbers. Only the best will be favoured, and can survive confidently.

Now = 350 colleges, just coming to the end of a good period of capital and revenue funding.

Soon = probable that about 100 sixth form colleges will return to the schools / local authority / academy sector, so 250 colleges to remain.
My figures would be 250 @ £20m = £5 bn funding, and they would be expected to save 10-20% through efficiencies = £0.5 – 1 bn. Not a big amount when compared to a £175bn deficit, but every little helps.
Then squeeze more out, through tighter targeting of competitive funding, then re-organising 1 in 4 colleges down to 200 or so, to save on back office functions and spread efficient practice.

Clunk Click for the trip ahead! It looks like it’s going to be an exhilarating but bumpy ride.

The Institute for Public Policy Research “Opportunities in the Age of Austerity”
Chapter 8 pages 35 – 37: Paul Lawrence “Further education – making smart cuts and improving efficiency”

Available to download from http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/ or from my Share Box here on the sidebar

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

SMART goals for smart course teams

Of course goals should be SMART, but they should work because they mean something to people in course teams, not because they fit together logically in a grid, like a Sudoku puzzle.

The problem is that SMART is always in the future – and goals should live in the present, alongside the people who are working them.

We are now in 2010, with an age of austerity almost upon us. With efficiency savings and funding reductions of 15% or so coming, we need to free up the creativity of course teams to tackle their issues. We shouldn’t be shoehorning them into long term logical planning – they need to keep going with what they are do well.  And that isn’t a licence for doing nothing – if they haven’t done anything much in reality about student retention, or achievement, or improving their own teaching or whatever, then somebody else’s SMART goal – inside or outside the college – will be to say “Sorry it’s too late to do anything about it now”. They would be a burden on their colleagues that can no longer be afforded.

We need teams to live in the present tense with SMART goals.
Not what they will do by July 2010, but what they are doing now. No procrastination , no starting after half term, but goals which are about now – today, this week, by Friday.
The present tense comes up with solutions – we will do this, and that, and change this – and keeps on coming up with solutions.

But a SMART future is somewhere far away , and comes up with a never ending cycle of imagined problems and imagined solutions. Fine for filling grids with things that might happen, but little else. Future SMART goals = Frustration because the goals vanish like clouds the nearer we get to them. They are the middle class ideal of deferred happiness, we are not worthy until we get to our respectable and approved destination.

In the present, real SMART goals give attainable achievement and constant feedback, and stimulate creativity and innovation. This a working class approach – feeling what is going to be good now, and going for it. Getting more of what you want now – one student putting in assignments on time, another not kicking off for a week, using one of Geoff Petty’s teaching ideas or YouTube in the lab – all build a SMART goal. Smart should be Sudden flashes of inspiration; Motivation, Any innovation; Risk; Trying things that work elsewhere.

So no great 12 month SMART Grand Plan for course teams – but being clear on the feedback on what we are doing now, and for the next month; and when we decide what the next steps are.

And if you want to keep the paperwork going – make the SMART goals a retrospective summary. That’s normally what happens anyway.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment