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Research Paper

International Confederation of Principals - Position Statement

Resourcing Schools

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This document is intended for use of member organisations in developing a school resourcing policy within their own context. It draws upon recent research and trends, particularly the work done by Jim Spinks and a paper produced by him for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. The ICP is under no illusion that all in schools will be made right by adequate resourcing alone. ‘As Caldwell emphasises… resourcing is but one of the factors affecting school improvement and does not alone guarantee improved outcomes. However, it is a critical element in the improvement matrix, particularly in underpinning change to fulfil the ever increasing expectations for all students.’ (Spinks. J ‘Resourcing schools for the 21st Century’, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, 2006 2, Ibid, Approved Council April 2008)

There has been a policy shift occurring over the past few years from a school education funding focus on individual schools to a focus on individual students.

This has come about because of changes in government and system accountability frameworks and a growing attention to lifting the outcomes of students. Governments the world over are implementing new and comprehensive accountability regimes and schools are progressively more held accountable for the performance of individual students. The resources required to achieve improved student outcomes are increasingly being focussed on the individual student by government funding systems.

‘The future universally envisaged by political leaders, educators and the public in general is focused on improving learning outcomes for all students and diminishing the disparity of outcomes between students. This future is also described in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA) studies as encompassing “high excellence” when all students maximise their potential to learn. It achieves “high equity” when environmental circumstances do not stop children achieving their potential for learning; it is backed by the belief that all children have the capacity for learning. That both high excellence and high equity can be achieved is well illustrated by Finland in the PISA studies.’

This document addresses two of the issues centred on the resourcing of schools:

  • The quantum of the resources required to support student learning to achieve student outcomes to a desired level; and
  • The manner in which those resources are delivered to the school and the flexibility of their use.

Successful student outcomes depend not only on the level of resources available to the school, but also on how those resources are used.

The Level of Resourcing: Resourcing What?
Determining the appropriate level of resourcing for schools ignores the question ‘To achieve what?’. There are a variety of ways in which governments set the expectations for their system of schools. Some nations set out the objectives for schooling and describe them in terms of numeric outcomes – especially in literacy and numeracy. Other do not set numeric targets, but Ministers of Education or Departments of Education make statements about the nature and level of the desired general outcomes for the nation in terms of education. No matter how specific the statements, it is usually up to school educators within the system to make sense of the objectives as described by system or political leaders.

Many OECD nations make use of the PISA studies to try to put a ‘hard edge’ on statements describing desired educational outcomes. Many others phrase their objectives in terms of generalities which make the setting of clear performance objectives and international comparison difficult.

When arguing for the provision of resources to schools to achieve specific outcomes, it is difficult to move past generalities if student outcomes are not specifically described. The measure of the challenge ahead for schools, and the level of resources required to meet that challenge, are difficult to achieve if the arguments are not couched in terms of performance targets, with those targets described by numbers, eg: proportion of students expected at different performance levels. Of course, many desired outcomes are difficult to describe in such terms – especially those outcomes centred on desired values and attitudes, but it is not an impossible task.

Member organisations may wish to develop strategies to assist systems to develop at least basic, specific levels of achievement in areas of interest. Doing so will make arguing the case for resources easier and will achieve greater sympathy from those responsible for the treasury of the nation.

The development and implementation of student outcome performance targets is an international phenomenon. Increasingly, at least in the OECD counties, there is a shift towards policies encouraging the continuous improvement in student outcomes over time, as well a decreasing the disparity between students – ie: greater equity in student achievement. Such initiatives are expensive to implement:

‘Improving outcomes for all students and deceasing (removing) disparity will require an incredible effort not only in curriculum, pedagogy and leadership but also in resourcing.’3

Factors which determine the level of resources needed to achieve specific student outcomes are described in the research:

  1. The nature of the students and their learning: their year level, the curriculum being studied.
  2. The needs of the student: funding is required to overcome the barriers to learning. These may include impairments or disabilities, socio-economic circumstances, language background, indigenous culture, isolated location, etc.
  3. The aspirations of students: funding is required to put in place processes and structures which support students in achieving their individual aspirations and the educational outcomes require for these aspirations to be achieved.

Many nations are also considering another form of funding called ‘activity based’ or ‘needs based’ which considers the cost of the processes required for learning activities. This type of approach is covered in factor 1 above.

Policy Ramifications:
When formulating what is to be funded in national policy development, and taking into account the three factors described above, deliberations should include:

  1. The provision of appropriate physical facilities.
  2. The provision of appropriate teaching resources and materials as well as student consumables.
  3. The cost of pre-service and post appointment training of teachers in schools.
  4. The cost of appropriate human resources. This would need agreement on the professional environment of the school in terms of contact time of teachers, numbers of support staff and class sizes, to list a few.
  5. The cost of computer hardware, software (and attendant licences) and internet connectivity.

It is up to individual nations to determine the level of resources required to enable the development and implementation of programs within the school to cater for the nature, needs and aspirations of every student in that school.

Determining Resourcing Needs
Member associations may wish to undertake, either in partnership with their Department of Education (or its equivalent), or with other partners, such as universities, a study to determine an appropriate level of resourcing for students. The funding models used by most education authorities demonstrate inequities, design approaches and historical elements which require fresh examination if an effective, efficient, fair and student-focused funding system is to be realised.

In determining the level of resources required to support students in achieving to their potential, ‘evidence needs to be collected from schools that are highly effective and efficient in significantly, systematically and sustainably adding value to student learning outcomes. They also need to be schools that are addressing the characteristics that may be required in the future – for instance, those using emerging best practice in teaching and learning and adopting a culture of continually and avidly seeking even better practice.’

Spinks suggests that ‘The following set of guidelines underpins the overall strategy to align the allocation of core student learning resources in a funding model focusing on the number and nature of students:

  1. Design to be based on evidence from schools; it is at the school level that evolving educational and socio-political environments expressed through ever increasing expectations have an impact on student funding.
  2. School leaders are the critical participants in gaining data and evidence, as they are most likely to know about the implications of changing expectations for student funding.
  3. Evidence of resource deployment should be sought through a focus on how people/programmes contribute to learning and teaching or the support of learning and teaching, and not through restricted financial analysis.
  4. Schools included should be representative of type, size, location and socio-economic circumstance and be known to significantly, systematically and sustainably add value to student learning outcomes.
  5. Schools included should exhibit best practice in learning and teaching strategies.
  6. Schools included should exhibit a culture of continually and avidly seeking better practices.
  7. Evidence sought should include analysis of all activities that enhance or support learning, irrespective of the source of the related funding.
  8. There may be a need to consider compensation for diseconomies of scale for some schools, through variable base allocations.
  9. Parallel evidence should be sought from a random sample of schools to find out whether there is a relationship between school nature, student performance and school resource deployment patterns.
  10. Resource provision should be driven by the recipients of schooling, and this should be reflected in the allocation models.
  11. Models should maintain maximum flexibility for schools to deploy resources as expectations and the educational environment change.
  12. Any resource allocation model can only reflect the expectations and environment of the near future. There is a need to update data and refine models on at least a triennial basis.

More information about the characteristics of funding models that will resource ‘the pursuit of excellence’ may be found in the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust Publication.

The ICP has developed, in conjunction with Jim Spinks, a survey which will enable member associations to develop evidence of the level of school funding required to allow the school to deliver a teaching and learning program of a quality to deliver the learning outcomes required by the school community and government.

A Lens for the Consideration of School Resourcing Levels
Two perspectives to consider school resourcing focus on i) the funding required to achieve excellent learning outcomes for students without impediments to learning and, ii) the funding required to overcome impediments. The latter perspective has a focus on the teaching and learning strategies and activities required to assist each student to overcome the effects of a particular disadvantage. An example of funding frameworks developed from utilising a dual perspective approach might be (at the very least) as follows:

Core Educational Processes

  1. Provision of an effective leadership and organisational structure to manage teaching and learning.
  2. Provision of effective teaching and non-teaching staff to support and deliver the curriculum.
  3. Provision of a system to support the extensive use of data to support teaching and learning, including the monitoring of outcomes of each child and the timely and frequent feeding back of that data to each teacher.
  4. Provision of support for staff professional activities and growth, including support for the development of teaching teams and professional learning networks, both within and between schools.
  5. Provision of student support programs and the personal and social development of each child.

Equity Focussed Educational Processes

  1. Provision of a system which identifies barriers to achievement for each student.
  2. Provision of an appropriate curriculum which satisfies the learning needs of each student.
  3. Provision of a ‘case management’ approach, including the use of individual learning plans, for each identified student.
  4. Provision of the staffing and organisational needs to develop strong home-school links and collaboration to improve learning outcomes.

The use of these perspectives allows for a simple yet very effective approach to determine the resourcing needs of schools that wish to achieve excellent learning outcomes for all students.

Resource Use in Schools
The use of resources in schools is partly determined by the level of control that central authorities have in the system. Control of resources – human, financial and capital - is described as being on a continuum from centrally directed at one end to fully devolved at the other. Overlying this spectrum are national policies related to industrial relations, accountability and financial management. The tension between the preference of some governments to centralise school resource control and predetermine the spending of schools on the one hand, and allowing schools to take the responsibility for the use of resources provided, needs to be relieved by research based solutions.

Research into the effectiveness of different models of resource use in schools (from centrally directed to fully devolved) has led to a multiplicity of results. More recent research seems to reflect the view that resources used to support effective teaching and learning do, in fact, achieve better student outcomes. It serves no purpose to devolve the ability and authority to use resources differently in a school if nothing changes in the classroom. But, put the resources in the hands of school leaders who have the training, vision and leadership to transform a school, then great things are possible that would not have been if resources in the school were centrally-managed. A devolved model of resourcing schools provides an essential tool in school transformation. Without devolved resourcing models, schools cannot make effective and efficient use of whatever resources are available. Such models should be accompanied by human resource policies which allow flexible use of the human resources available. Schools and their principals cannot be held responsible for student outcomes if they are unable to make a difference where it counts – at the interface between the teacher and the learner. There is also evidence that devolving resource authority to schools, without commensurate support for the school leadership in training and in the additional accountability requirements that invariably accompany such devolution, is detrimental to the health and well-being of school leaders. Any system which devolves resource authority and process must also provide additional resources at the school level to allow for the proper management and accountability processes for those resources. Such resource accountability practices should be low level and, as far as possible, integrated into existing school accountability processes.

The ICP commends devolved school resource management policies and practices, but notes that this must be accompanied by effective and comprehensive training, efficient accountability processes and appropriate levels of school level support for those practices.

Comprehensive National Policies: The Roles and Accountabilities of the Private Sector and Government
The past century has seen the growth and co-existence of government supported schools and private, independent schools. Nations have adopted different approaches to the funding of each sector. In many countries, non-government schools have not been supported financially. In others, financial support is provided, ranging from insignificant support to considerable. In nations where some financial support is provided to non-government schools, recipients of that support are subjected to different levels of accountability, again from low accountability levels, to considerable.

The ICP supports the existence of both government and non-government providers of education. It also supports the provision of adequate resources to all schools so that they may deliver a quality education to the young of the nation. Where government money is provided to support non-government schools, the accountability policies when applied to schools in receipt of government finance needs to ensure that the money is used to support the educational and social policies of that nation.

The ICP does not support high stakes testing and punitive accountability consequences for schools that are judged less than average and the negative consequences for schools in the nations that adopt these regimes. It does support the provision of additional resources for those schools with greater needs.

The Future
The ICP will support any member association that wishes to develop a strategy aimed at evidence of the level of resources required to deliver an excellent, high equity teaching and learning program within the schools of their nation. The ICP also commends the publications:

  • Caldwell, B J: Resourcing Schools for the 21st Century: Principles. iNET/SSAT
  • Spinks, J: Resourcing Schools for the 21st Century: Models. iNET/SSAT
  • Caldwell, B J and Spinks, J: Raising the Stakes: From Improvement to Transformation in the Reform of Schools. Routledge

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