Podcast Ep 6: Leading Excellent School Resource Management

March 6, 2020 Arun Bharij

Stephen Morales (Chief Executive, Institute of School Business Leadership) leads this panel on school resource management, touching on triangulation of leadership, the role of School Business Professionals in Senior Leadership Team and Board meetings, and investment on SBP's skillset. These issues are debated by Alastair Cowen (Vice-Chair of Trustees, James Brindley Academy), Anastasia Byard (Director of Finance and Operations, Northern Ambition Academies Trust) and Robin Bevan (Headteacher, Southend High School for Boys).

This panel discussion was recorded live on 13th November 2019, in the Business & Finance Theatre of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

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Transcript

Stephen Morales
00:25

Hi everybody so this session is going to explore the role that school business leaders play in excellent resource management, but also that important relationship with the other pillars of leadership. So that's pedagogical leadership and those responsible for governance and as well as that relationship, we're going to explore the various approaches to resource management and the skills and the capacity that's required or needed within institutions to make that work effectively. And we'll probably go on to talk a little bit about the investment or the lack of it in professional development. So if I could start off asking each of the panel, probably in turn, in fact, let's stop this stop for one second, let's introduce the panel that that's probably the right way to start things. So I'm Stephen Morales, Chief Executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership. I'm going to pass over to my colleague here Alastair to say a few words about where you come from and what you do.

Alastair Cowen
01:36

Sure so I am a trustee at a academy school in Birmingham, and I chaired the Finance Committee. So I've got a particular interest there. And but more broadly, a vice chair of the board and something I've been doing for about four years now, at this particular school, and professionally, I'm a chartered accountant and work in consulting so that's the sort of my, my background that I bring to to the board.

Stephen Morales
02:04

Thank you. Anastasia.

Anastasia Byard
02:05

Yeah, my name is Anastasia Byard. I'm Director of Finance for a four school Multi Academy Trust up in Yorkshire. And I'm also a school's resource management advisor. And we've been on a journey in my trust from a pretty difficult financial situation through to one where we're now doing much better financially.

Stephen Morales
02:23

And Robin.

Robin Bevan
02:24

I'm Robin Bevin, I'm the head teacher of Southend High School for Boys. I've been involved in senior leadership for 25 years across three different schools. And I have developed something of a reputation not one I necessarily wanted, but a reputation for commenting on the school funding, school resource management in a context where the DfE has declared my own school to be one of the most exceptionally efficient in the country.

Stephen Morales
02:53

Thank you very much. That's very helpful. Okay, so we're going to start with a question on what I've been referring to for a number of years as leadership triangulation, and that is where pedagogy, business and governance come together and work seamlessly together. And I would ask, like to ask the panel, their views on how that relationship the importance of that relationship in the area of effective resource management. Who'd like to go first?

Anastasia Byard
03:30

Yeah, I mean, I personally believe that finance is something that absolutely isn't left to the finance professionals who may be the people doing it on the ground, but it's absolutely essential that school leadership and school governors have a really clear understanding of effective resource management. But equally, I think it's really important that the finance professionals have a really good understanding of school improvement and how that school operates and how it drives. Because, in my view, effective resource management isn't necessarily just about saving money. It's about the redirection and redeployment of resource in the most effective way. And it might be that, that a school or an academy trust is not currently deploying its resources to have the greatest impact. That's not something that a finance professional can deal with alone. It has to be a conversation that is triangulated between the finance, leadership, school, educational leadership and governance.

Robin Bevan
04:27

I think I want to give as practical answer as I can, Stephen, and so and to start that I want to talk about where it doesn't happen. So I think probably, if you visit a large number of schools in this country, you will have senior leadership team meetings in which the finance the lead finance professional in the school is outside that meeting. I think that still happens. Okay, now that it's shocking that that's true, but there is a reason why that's true. And that because a lot of what happens in those meetings isn't relevant to the lead finance professional. So now into the practical answer if I may, over a number of years, we've evolved our practice within my own school. And we now have fortnightly, four one hour senior leadership team meetings. That's all we have. Okay. One of those is the senior leadership team strategy meeting. And it only ever deals with one item in that one hour. So whatever the key piece of strategy is, and around the table, me, the two deputy heads, and the schools finance lead, school business manager, okay, and that might be a premises development issue. It might be a curriculum development issue, but it's always a matter of strategy. We have what we call SLT pupil experience. A one hour meeting doesn't involve our finance professional at all. This is about pastoral care and curriculum delivery and events in the school events, they're going to affect the people's. SLT personnel, me, the two deputies, the Finance Leader, my HR Manager once a fortnight, and we run through any rising issues, known vacancies and so on. And the fourth is SLT business admin, me, the two deputies, the Network Manager, the HR Manager, the Office Manager, and the finance lead. And that deals with everything that you would consider to be back office that ought to run in such a way that the teaching staff should never have to care at all about it. And by moving to that model, what we've managed to do is make sure that every time there's a decision that involves finance, the finance lead is there. Every time there are matters that don't involve finance, the finance lead isn't there and he or she can get on with their job. And what we've done is separated out those roles. On top of which, limiting each of those meetings to only one hour is a stroke of genius.

Stephen Morales
07:07

Thank you. Alastair.

Alastair Cowen
07:08

Yes. And so I let the other two go ahead of me because actually, I think that's a it speaks to how governance would actually sit in this conversation, which is there should be discussions held internally between the school leadership and finance professionals, and governance sort of come in there and then sort of bring some accounts of countability and scrutiny. So one of the three key tenets as it were of governance is actually holding or holding leadership to account in terms of monitoring financial performance. And so we are, we are setting the actual details some of the budget we aren't in those conversations. But we are considering how our school vision which is something we do sets in collaboration with the leadership and manifests itself in the budgets. And so we might consider why we find this particular aspect of our school quite important, quite valuable and something we want to develop over a number of years. That might be where we, when we're in any sort of governance of board meetings, we might challenge and sort of say, Well, we've said this is important. This isn't our values. These are our priorities. How How is that best sitting within the budget. And, and when it comes to committee meetings, I myself I feel quite familiar, comfortable with finances, chartered accountant, but I think it's important that the board brings with it diversity of views and voices from its from the wider and membership of the board. So on our finance committee, we have a parent governor, and I think it's important to be able to have rather than the conversations being about faceless numbers and kind of on paper Effectively, and but having different voices from across the boards to bring those insights. And it's not just about challenging the leadership and finance professionals but actually providing support there as well. And, and by establishing an open and honest relationship. What I expected I hope, other boards have is honest conversations about how the school is doing, where it needs to go. And that ensures that any kind of committee meeting when it comes to finance, that we can trust that the leadership, finance professionals can come to us with an honest assessment of challenges in the school. Sustainability is a big issue at the moment in the school sector. I don't think anyone would, would deny that and we sometimes can have to make hard decisions. Some of those can come back to need the support of the board. So therefore, by having that honest relationship, we can make sure we tackle those and with the sort of sincerity that they need. And and I find that final point I would I would touch on, I suppose, as well that as some of those points that Robin was making around those meetings that rings true to me is when we're thinking about financial resources, the curriculum can be considered in terms of a an integrated approach. What resources does the school need to deliver a particular curriculum? How is that fitting what people's needs? And I'm translating that into? Well, therefore, what are the staffing requirements? That's the lens, I would expect schools to be dealing with it and where we would be challenging them on but also supporting them by saying, well, this is this is the way in which we think our vision translates into that. Please demonstrate where you think we actually need to take the school in light of that?

Stephen Morales
11:04

Thank you very much, Robin, you wanted to come in?

Robin Bevan
11:06

Yeah, it's just picking up on what Alistair said and linking it with my comment about making sure that senior leadership meetings are designed around those four different pillars of focus. What we also did, although took us a long time to get there is we've now lined up our governor working groups, so subcommittees whatever other term you use, we've lined those up so that they exactly match the four SLT groups. So there is a governor working group on personnel. There's an SLT personnel group and the direct feed through then between that governance role scrutiny, determining and agreeing strategy, and the operational role is then created. And I think if you looked in most schools, you would have SLT decision making scattered amongst a number of different groups that don't directly align to the group. That you've got within your governing body, which is bound to create inefficiency, duplication of discussions and various other difficulties.

Stephen Morales
12:08

Thank you. I'm just just picking up on some of the comments that the panel have made. I'm interested now to explore where language is a barrier to meaningful dialogue. And and what I mean, I don't mean foreign languages. I mean, I mean, the terminology that we use as finance professionals as pedagogical leaders, and even the language of governance coming in for some people can be quite, alienating. So I would just like to get the perspective of the panel in terms of how you overcome that. How do you get your message across in a way that's accessible to your audience, so you can have the debate? My own experience is that I've observed on occasions, a bit of a standoff because people don't understand what's being said or don't like the way it's been presented. Not necessarily the concept itself. So we could test that, that hypothesis out that's possible who'd like to go first?

Alastair Cowen
13:13

One of the things I I feel when I go to off I finance committees is sometimes I have quite a bit of a alignment in terminology and understanding of the finance elements with the finance professional. But then sometimes there could be a disconnect with the principal with the leadership as to what that might mean, potentially. So we might be discussing some of the details of of budgetary processes or the accounts process as an academy. And I think there is just a need to break down the barriers and ensure that what I would expect to have on the governing board is that there is a direct line, that definitely should be a direct line, that close working relationship between the leadership of the school and the finance professional in that sense. Going back to something that Robin said, if the finance professionals aren't turning up some of those meetings, then they can't share back. They can't there's no feedback loop between sort of the the leadership of the school and those finance professionals. So I would expect finance professionals to be involved in those conversations and be a key member of the school of the trust and thinking about development. And, more broadly, I think there can be a challenge that not all governors or trustees necessarily understand finance elements too. It's not expected that every governor would be qualified in terms of finance have any sort of accounts qualification, nor would you actually want them to be because otherwise they'd all be pencil pushers, as you could say, in terms of thinking about the finances. But we can also find a way to educate the broader boards on what they need to know in terms of the nuances of finance and resources in a particular school setting. So one of the things we've involved is, as well as having an external partner come in and provide some advice and training for the board on finance matters. We've actually worked with our finance professionals who have skipped to actually develop almost like a glossary and a summary of well, here's the management accounts, which we now need to provide to our board quite regularly. But this is how to read it. This is how to understand it and this is what you should be thinking. And then that helps the boards in developing their questions in terms of challenge and also saying, Well, actually, this is our vision. are we supporting the school leadership enough in helping them to do that? So breaking through those barriers in terms of the language and definitions i think is important for the board.

Stephen Morales
16:02

I know you, you kind of come at it from two angles one as a, as a financially, within an organisation. And you have to have those conversations internally with SLT members and the board, but also having conversations with class leaders in your role as an HR Manager. So I just wondered what your your take on on this was.

Anastasia Byard
16:24

I think for me, what Alice has said about training is really important because if I've put my hat on as a director of finance, what I actually want is a Resources Committee and a trust board that are challenging me that they're not blindly accepting the information that I'm providing them with, because actually, that's not good governance, if they don't understand what I'm presenting them with, and they're not able to ask informed questions about that. So I think that's really important. I would slightly disagree with my colleague here in terms of the involvement of the finance professional because personally, I believe that as a finance professional, If I don't understand the educational workings of a school, I cannot give good advice and help the school to make good financial decisions because I don't understand enough about the educational side of things. Now maybe that's partly because of my background because I am a bit of an imposter. I'm not an accountant. I started out in school improvement. And I've moved into the role of Director of Finance. But I think it is really, really important from a from a resource management point of view to have a good understanding of the purpose, excuse me of the business in the same way that the governors do and I think finance professionals need to educate themselves as much as we need to educate governors and trustees around the educational side of things in the educational language. But then I do also feel sometimes we need to educate the educationalists around the finance side of things, because the number of head teachers that I've spoken to when I've been out doing SRMA deployments who, who didn't really have a good understanding of the finance, they they did much leave it to their finance professional. And that's great on a day to day basis, but I think head teachers got to have some, some good knowledge of this is what this means because I think that's why we've seen some of these catastrophic problems in the sector that has actually given us all such a bad name.

Stephen Morales
18:17

Thank you. Robin I know you're you have some views and apologies for, for revealing that your own capabilities. But I've worked very closely with Robin I know that Robin straddles brilliantly the finance and headship role, perhaps to an extent that in some ways, is quite unique. And and so I'd be quite interested in how you marshal that conversation between your very capable finance professional, your board and the the SLT and how you make that judgment in terms of first of all language and how we make sure everybody stands where we're heading. But also when to bring who into the conversation and when it's appropriate, perhaps not to, you know, picking up on some of those stages comments.

Robin Bevan
19:12

Okay, I'm going to dodge your question, Stephen. But hopefully give a worthwhile response. Firstly, just picking up on what Anastasia says. I think it's a great challenge is the extent to which your finance lead is involved in senior leadership decisions within the school. I think placing that boundary is difficult. And I think we could begin a conversation in which you put PCs either side of that line, and you slowly work your way towards that line. So I'll give you an example. If SLT is having a conversation around which year groups are going to be attending the series of assemblies leading up to Christmas, your finance professional does not need to be there. Okay, so that's clearly out here somewhere. If SLT is having a conversation about whether to restructure the delivery of science in a secondary context, so that, for example, there are more triple science candidates than you've had before, which might trigger some more sets. You're financially absolutely should be there. So you've got the peace of mind somewhere, you've got to find that that dividing line, I'm going to pick up on the point that language if I'm not sure, so, I'm first it's a kind of clarion call out to anybody who's working in the academy sector because the academy sector as we know, found its birth under a Labour government that was looking for a way of bringing a new type of school into formation. And they didn't do it by having a whole new piece of legislation. What they did was they took existing provision for the existence of independent companies. So we're registered at Companies House. Existing law regarding charitable provision. So we're registered as charities. And in addition, they used existing statutory provisions around education. The result is that academies now have the most complicated form of account preparation of any sector, education, charitable or anybody else or private companies in the country. Our accounts are more complex, they have more rules around them, and they are impenetrable. And I think anything that is done from organisations like your own Stephen to shout out for the fact that we need simplification there is paramount. Okay, then there's another piece, which is that finance professionals want to be taken seriously. And anybody who wants to be taken seriously tends to use the jargon of their profession to make it sound impressive, FRS 102 adjustments, capitalisation of assets. So you start using this language all which is absolutely valid. But you kind of know, the most people don't know what you're talking about. And that kind of feels good. It gives you an elevated status. And being a little provocative, a little mischievous. But the problem that you then have is you've got governing bodies and senior teams who are meant to be approving some of the things you're saying. And it hasn't been translated for them into a workable form. And I do not think and here I'm really clear, I do not believe that working from standard Academy accounts to guide your governing bodies good enough. I think you have to have an intermediate we use live spreadsheets that we take from our accounts with budgeting, and we sit in the meetings and we change the sliders on them live on the screen in front of everybody. And that's our means of of doing that. And a final point, which echoes what Anastasia said, the vast majority of heads teachers know very little and being polite, know very little about finance at the serious level, they would struggle to answer in many cases, questions about costing. For example, I've done this as an exercise training for head teachers, I want you to cost how much you would have to pay to add one new option to your GCSE options structure that they can normally do, because you're adding things on and they can do the rough cost delay, always forget the cost with the salary. But then ask them a second question. How much do you save, if you remove an option from your GCSE option structure and they will nearly always get it wrong, because they will forget that these kids are still going to go somewhere. And that actually removing an option might actually trigger more stuffing rather than less depending upon how your model works. So we do need to work really hard with our school leaders to make sure that they've got that financial knowledge, but it shouldn't be the most important thing. When you appoint a head teacher, or a chief executive.

Stephen Morales
24:05

Thank you. So, I mean, for me, there's a couple of takeaways from that I'm just gonna make a bit of a statement, because it's, for me, it's really refreshing to hear a school business leader. Absolutely championing championing School Business Leaders involvement in the pedagogical conversation. And that's great. And I also think it's refreshing to hear a head teacher making careful consideration about the school business leaders involvement in those conversations, where I think it breaks down and what isn't joined up is to carte blanche say that group of professionals are not part of any conversation in this space, and vice versa. So I think, you know, the spirit of of him being involved in the conversation and working out when when it's appropriate when it's not, I think that's, that's a healthy thing to come out of this conversation. And we've got about just over 10 minutes left that the next question I would like to explore and we'll see where this takes us to the end or whether we've got time for another one is around what I'm referring to the leadership skills gap. And I, for probably the last or last five years, at least been talking about a very steep reform curve, and a relatively shallow investment in professional development, certainly professional leadership development. And really, again, just listening to the panel on how they think we might close that gap, and where the vulnerabilities where the big vulnerabilities reside, and stuff like that come to you first.

Alastair Cowen
25:39

Sure and so as well as my finance hats, I sit on our staffing committee and there's elements of that where we we consider kind of appraisal performance and kind of actually trying to embed a culture of welfare as well as professional development. Where staff as well as the peoples because we we think that as well are challenged to think about how they can develop themselves. And it's quite person at this time of year because it was just the other day that some of the appraisals for staff last year were completed. And there was a sense that I have in the education sector that not just support staff but also teachers aren't always actually thinking about how they can improve their practice. And coming from the profession and sort of work I do. It's, it's almost drilled into you from day one thinking about how you should be, right. This is what this is how well you do now. This is what you're doing. Where can you develop what would you like to do? And, and that's something which I feel I sense in culture isn't always there. I think we should be championing and staff should be encouraged to self reflect on where they think they are? How can they improve and develop? And it's not just a soul, a soul searching of themselves on well how, for myself, what would I like to do, but actually explaining that that? Well, this is much this is, this is a good thing for people's, you can improve your practice, you can help drive a school forward by developing yourself. And I think what I sense can be quite important in helping that move forward. And making that shift is I think staff actually would like to be able to have the time to do that. But maybe they find that line managers don't always give it a priority. And so, from my perspective, I will be challenging the leadership of the school on how they are embedding a culture of continuing professional development and ensuring that line managers and prioritise for their praise ease, so that they feel like they can have that support and challenge on where can you move forwards. And that's something I really I feel passionate about that staff should be doing. And I feel it's at the crux of how we can move schools forward. And is, is at the grassroots, I suppose of staff and saying, Well, how can you as a, as a, as a practitioner, as a teacher, as a member of our corporate staff? How can you develop yourself? So that's, that's the way I kind of.

Stephen Morales
28:31

Thank you. Anastasia.

Anastasia Byard
28:33

I think this probably two key points I'd like to make. One is around developing that understanding that professional development doesn't necessarily mean going on a training course and it's about developing and learning. One of the reasons why I chose to become an SRMA was for my own professional development, because actually, even when I've gone into a school that's been in financial difficulty, I've never yet come out with one where I haven't learned something myself. I thought, actually, that'd be a really good idea. I can take that back to my own trust. So I think it's, it's developing that breadth of understanding around what professional development means because sometimes people do see it quite narrowly. I think the second point I'd like to make is around apprenticeships. And this is a real, it's a real challenge. And as an organisation, we've been looking when we've been making new appointments to see Can we make those appointments as an apprenticeship? And I have to say to the ones that we've we've just appointed to we've just appointed a business manager in one of our schools, and as an apprentice, and that has worked amazingly well because it has got us a fantastic candidate, who we're succession planning now into roles for the future. And the challenge with apprenticeships is that encouragement of existing staff to take on that training, working out how as an organisation, you can give them the 20% training time that they need in order to do an apprenticeship because the apprenticeship Levy, the money is sitting there and maybe as a sector, we're not using it. We're not using it very well yet, but I think that the problem with nobody's giving us any soft stare on how how can you make that that work?

Stephen Morales
30:06

Thank you. Robin.

Robin Bevan
30:08

Two quick shouta. Firstly, I think there is a good availability of developmental professional developmental programs for school business managers. I know your organisation provides them, Stephen. And I think that is there, I don't think it's accessed as much as it needs to be. So there is a continuing professional development lead for finance professionals within schools that on the on the non finance side, I think the biggest gap that we've got is the lack of finance specific training for Deputy Head Teachers. Because what happens is that deputy heads fulfill their role and it's often a part of a whole school role. So they might do curriculum, teaching, or learning, they might do the pastoral side, or they might do an age range with a school or whatever it is, and then they apply for headship and they might do even go on preparing for headship courses. But preparing for headship courses nearly always boil down to how to get your way through the interview, rather than actually how to be a competent head after you get the job. And there's very little in that preparation around finance. And I think that is that there's there's a crying need for that, to ensure that by the time people are in that headship, role, Chief accounting officer in the academy sector, that they are ready and understand and I'll just illustrate one issue around that the school workforce census and now let's go to the student school pupils census, the school pupil census. The school people census in most schools and in my own school, that documents is the equivalent of a five and a half million pound invoice to think about how it's actually used what it's used for. Okay. The vast majority of head teachers sign the school pupil census without reading it. It is probably the most important single fine document that crosses their desk. Don't blame them because nobody's ever told them how important it is in Southend, we had an issue where six primary schools returned incorrect information on their people sensors several years ago, those schools ended up causing the borrower to receive 170,000 pounds less than it should have done. And there is no way back. It was magnanimous of the schools in the in the borrower as a whole that we shared that loss between us. Just in illustration.

Stephen Morales
32:34

Yep. Thank you. And I'm just gonna press a little we've got we've got a bit of time. So I'm gonna press a little bit further on this point. And, again, this is a hypothesis, if you like in terms of where I see the problem in terms of that gap that I described the report very steep reform curve and shallow growth impression development. And I think for me, it's around three things, funding capacity and apathy. Not necessarily in that order. And I wonder whether one solution might be well, one, one solution certainly is a bit more investment from government in supporting capacity building. But beyond that, I wonder, is there a role for a minimum expectation in terms of competency? And, and should we be pushing for that? So again, if I could take Anastasia first this time?

Anastasia Byard
33:37

I mean, I think I'd like to pick up on on what Robin has said. I think it is very true that sometimes the first time somebody really starts to engage with finances when they become a head teacher for the first time, because teachers are quite often promoted to department heads, because they're great teachers because they can get fantastic results in the classroom and you give them a budget and they haven't the faintest idea what to do with it. And I think, even at middle leader level, there's a real lack of available training and support to help people on that journey. Because headship should not be the first time that somebody really starts to engage with finance, I think they need to have that understanding beforehand.

Alastair Cowen
34:22

I think there could be a danger when there's a thought that we need to educate our senior leaders on finance that we just need to send them on an accounting course and they need to understand xyz. And I don't think that's the right thing to do at all. And with our middle leaders, we can be certainly thinking about, well, how can we introduce the right sorts of thinking in different aspects of resource management, and earlier on in the process, so it's bite sized, it's kind of incremental, and then when they come to making that jump, they've already picked up relevant skills and experience different aspects of the school's resource management. One of the ways in which I kind of think about that in is, in some of our committee meetings, we might have middle leaders for particular school centres. And in terms of the finance and resources aspect of it, we could have an item where we're thinking specifically about how they are implementing the pupil premium strategy. So it could be saying, well, there's additional resources here. This is the kind of the overarching strategy for pupil premium. And there's now an accomplishment that people move to not just an annual kind of strategy and review but a longer term, maybe three year strategy. And so the governance role is in around that. But introducing middle leaders, upcoming leaders to aspects such as pupil premium, and if they are say at my school, Whatever center leader and element of facilities management as well, and just the different sorts of elements that as a leader of school, they will need to broadly be across have, but not be in the detail of, I think that's the right way to approach it rather than a kind of throw them in the deep end with everything.

Stephen Morales
36:20

Robin, literally got a minute, a couple of minutes if you could just provide.

Robin Bevan
36:26

I'm gonna give you two different answers. One, I was just reflecting on how I come to have the expertise I have. And, oddly, I developed my HR expertise and my kind of health and safety and premises expertise by being a trade union rep. That was my route into that and I used to do casework in other schools. And I learned an awful lot through that route. And it's an unusual route, but it does highlight the fact that very often it's not just finance knowledge. But the other things that Alistair in particular was mentioning premises management issues, HR issues that had certain had. So that's just one observation. The second observation most of my answers have been around my own school and very practical here. I'm going to go right to the other scale. I think one of the problems we've got Stephen is that there is no systematic sustained strategic vision for the delivery of education in this country. And that's a shocking thing to say, but there isn't. And it's not i'm not saying it from a political standpoints. There is so much noise and turbulence within a perpetually changing system, that any strategic attempt to lead to the point where you've got highly skilled leaders with real expertise, if you think about it as a school leader in the secondary sector. In the last five years, I've been responsible for implementing just for example, the biggest overhaul of the curriculum provision in the secondary sector since 1944. With all the new GCSE is all the new A-Levels, alongside that we have got perpetual regulatory change, not a comment whether it's good or bad, it's just there. And I think on top of which just a couple of years ago, every Academy was being told that had to be part of a Multi-Academy-Trust now and don't think we quite know. Yes. And here's a challenge for you. Is our outstanding schools currently exempt from Ofsted or not? You see the announcement is that they're not but the legislation was never passed. So we've got this constant level of kind of slight incoherence. And, Stephen, if I've still got a moment or two, take funding, and you know me well enough to know I had to say something about it. Take funding. We've got new funding levels, as you know, minimum funding levels coming into the education sector next year. That's the 5000 pound per pupil per year in the secondary sector. And there's an equivalent figure in the primary sector. I wrote to our friends in the departments, and I asked them what modeling was used to create that figure. I like got an honest answer, absolutely none. The figure came out of Boris Johnson's leadership campaign. That was where the finger was created. Now, when you've got that lack of coherence, that lack of strategic thinking on something as fundamental as that you're not going to sort out your other problems until as I say, there's a coherent vision for the way in which education is going to be provided the nature of the education that we want, and the funding to deliver it. So I think your question is a good one, but you're kind of asking us to get the cart moving when we haven't even got a horse.

Stephen Morales
40:01

Thank you very much. So we're out of time. Thank you very much to the panel. I hope you found it a very engaging conversation. I certainly did. Thank you Alastair, Anastasia, Robin. Thank you.

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