NAHT’s new school improvement programme, Aspire, is currently being piloted in 30 primary schools working in four regional networks in the north midlands, Bristol, Kent, Sussex and Essex. The programme takes a holistic and interconnected approach towards developing a highly effective school through a supportive and collaborative approach that delivers reliable results.
The decision to engage with the Aspire programme is a significant one for all schools. It represents an opportunity to bring together all aspects of school improvement and CPD into a focused and joined-up strategy, but it also presents a challenge around how a budget area that has traditionally been distributed across many individual line items might be rationalised most effectively.
For schools that have made the step into the Aspire programme, there is recognition that whilst the costs of the programme are broadly in line with historic expenditure patterns, this new approach demands a new mind-set towards budget setting based on future investment in staff and systems, as opposed to historic practice.
Schools looking to invest in greatness through a programme such as NAHT Aspire need to develop their budget from the question, “what kind of school do we want to be and how do we financially plan to get there?” It is a question of investment for the future, and distinguishing cost from value.
Commenting on the budgeting process, NAHT Assure head of finance, Trish Cain, states: “Increasingly schools and academies are becoming much more focussed on individual line items in their budgets, and this is a good thing generally as it potentially contributes to operational savings. However it also leads to greater spending scope and the ability to see how to allocate budget to activities that will definitely move the school forward as opposed to simply doing the same things year on year.
“By taking an investment approach to school budgeting much of the Aspire cost can be covered by allocations for professional development, resources for learning and curriculum services.”
The pupil premium grant can also be deployed to good effect for Aspire, as many of the programme’s outcomes are directly aimed at closing the gaps in pupil attainment.