What’s more, we have achieved this at a time of austerity – in conjunction with the council, we have developed sustainable models of delivery, at less cost, which will help equip children and young people with the academic and life skills they need to succeed.
With reduced funding from Whitehall, local authorities are under growing pressure to cut their education budgets and save money. Tough inspections by regulator Ofsted and changes in government policy are presenting councils with stark choices as they seek to improve pupil attainment in their schools while still balancing the books. In October 2013 we took over the management of the majority of education services provided by Slough Borough Council (SBC), providing technical support and project management to improve outcomes for children and young people in the face of financial austerity.
Detailed reviews of all of the services identified how we could improve quality within available budgets and build a sustainable, self-improving education service. We then developed strategies for each service, placing strong emphasis on efficiency, setting challenging performance benchmarks, rigorous monitoring, and directing resources to where they were needed most. We formed action groups to support delivery plans designed to improve the management and governance of schools. We raised awareness and take-up of early years services by roadshows, text marketing and radio advertising. New processes and a reorganisation of backroom functions, such as IT and finance, cut costs and freed up staff to deliver more frontline services in the community.
Since we’ve been involved the number of schools in Slough rated ‘Good’ or better has increased by 17%. One school was one of only a handful in the country to jump from ‘Inadequate’ to ‘Good’ within the space of one inspection. The children’s centre services, previously deemed by Ofsted to be collectively ‘Inadequate’, have improved. We now help 82% of vulnerable young families in the borough, up from just 30%. This has contributed to improving results for children at all formal assessment stages. Slough’s GCSE results are now the seventh best in the country.