Why is a struggling secondary school obliged to cut course options? What is the single biggest advantage the private sector has over state schools?
Staffing is by a long, long margin the most expensive item in a school budget. So, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, consider:
Two new free schools are opening in Suffolk next week with less than half of their places filled by pupils.
Saxmundham Free School will enrol 104 children when it has space for 216, while Beccles Free School has 68 pupils and a capacity for 162.
Critics said it showed the government should not have granted approval for the new high schools.
The Seckford Foundation, which runs the schools, said it was confident more pupils would join throughout the year.
Beccles will have 12 teachers and Saxmundham will have 14 when they open to year seven, eight and nine pupils next Thursday.
Malcolm reckons that means Saxmundham has a PTR of 7.4 and Beccles of 5.7. Most English secondaries would regard that grossly indulgent for the Sixth Form (where generous staffing is achieved only by having full — and over-full — classes in the lower school.
And no budget would be passed on the basis of “wishful thinking”, or, as the Seckford Trust puffery would have it:
“We are confident that pupils will join us through the year as more and more people learn about the quality of education we will be delivering.”
Six “free schools” did not make the cut, even at this level of generosity. The cost of these failures to the national education budget is £2.3 million — and rising. This whole programme, which sooner or later will be recognised as Gove’s folly, has a budget of £600 million over the next three years. Were this “new money”, the experiment might have some excuse. It is, of course, money filched from the essential school building programme. That is why primary schools across the country will be crammed to the gills and “teaching” in unsuitable accommodation this year.