‘Schools are not getting a fair deal over funding’

4th December 2015 at 00:00
New president of leaders’ body explains his passion for budgets – and bagpipes

For Andy Smith – the new president of School Leaders Scotland – education is in his blood. His brother Barry is also a headteacher and his sister Julie lectures in primary education at the University of Edinburgh.

Mr Smith, head of Carluke High in South Lanarkshire, started his working life in the financial sector but quickly opted to change course, following in his father’s footsteps to become a maths teacher. So it is perhaps no surprise that the postcode lottery of school funding and staffing, and the inequity that results from it, concern him deeply.

There can be “vast differences” in the budgets of similar-sized schools, Mr Smith says, with some having as much as 50 per cent less to spend on resources, depending on where they are in the country.

He wants a national formula that dictates the minimum level of funding a school can expect. “We need some kind of national agreement or discussion. It’s clear some young people and schools benefit more than others due to the financial constraints in some education authorities.

“There are very significant differences in the staffing levels of schools of a similar size too.”

Education directors’ association ADES would like to see a national minimum staffing formula introduced in place of the Scottish government’s pledge to maintain teacher numbers.

Good work going on

The pledge is a “crude” measure, they say, and means different things in different councils, depending on how generous staffing allocations were when the policy was introduced.

Renfrewshire Council had the lowest spend per secondary pupil in 2013-14 at £5,582, according to the latest figures on the Scottish local government benchmarking site.

The biggest spenders were Scotland’s rural authorities, where the cost of delivering education can be very high given that some schools have only one pupil.

Of the more urban authorities, Aberdeen City Council spent the most on delivering secondary education, at £7,211 per pupil.

Apart from expressing concerns about school funding, Mr Smith wants to use his presidency of SLS to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of the good work going on in schools across Scotland.

He praises the hard work and dedication of Scottish teachers in recent years in implementing the new curriculum and qualifications.

“Everybody in schools has done an incredible job developing and implementing the new qualifications. We have effectively delivered a brand new curriculum in the last few years and that should not be underestimated,” Mr Smith says. “At times it seems like there is a lot of negative talk about education but these people need to visit schools and find out about the amazing things that are happening. Schools are staffed by hugely committed staff who regularly work beyond their contracted hours to give the best education to young people.”

Mr Smith got his first headship in 2009 when he took the helm at Perth Academy. But after four years of commuting from Lanark, during which his two youngest children were born, he jumped at the chance to work closer to home. The father-of-four has been at Carluke – just six miles from his home and “a true comprehensive” – for two years. His job can be all-consuming, he admits, but he refuses to allow it to take over his life and he has a wide range of interests outside education.

‘The job won’t take over’

He is learning the bagpipes with his eight-year-old son, Benjamin, through the Lanark and District Pipe Band. They started their lessons at the beginning of the year and so far have mastered Flower of Scotland and Amazing Grace on the chanter.

Cycling, swimming and running also loom large and Mr Smith has ambitions to enter a triathlon. “You have to ensure you have some outside interests otherwise the nature of this job is such it could consume you,” he says.

@TESScotland

Andy Smith: CV

Born: 1968, Bellshill

Educated: Prestwick Academy, then Kyle Academy in South Ayrshire. University of Glasgow, then Moray House, University of Edinburgh.

First job: maths teacher, Armadale Academy, West Lothian

Current post: headteacher, Carluke High School, South Lanarkshire

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