Resources matter. Those who work in schools as teachers and associate staff, school premises, furniture, books and equipment all provide some of the means by which we transform our hopes and aspirations for children’s education into daily learning opportunities and experiences and, beyond that, into the longer-term outcomes of schooling. It is that link between resources and learning which is the principal concern of this book. We ask what characteristics would be expected in a school that is successful in making the link between resources and learning—the cost-effective school—and then examine how 18 secondary schools exercised their responsibilities for resource management.
The importance of resources for schools is highlighted by debate about the government’s annual decisions on public expenditure on education and its consequences for spending by schools. It is a debate which manifests genuine concern about the level of spending on education and it is a concern we share. This book, however, is not about that debate but what is, in many ways, the more challenging task of whether we use existing resources as effectively as we might. Difficulties in articulating the link between resource decisions and learning are a general problem, as identified in the annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools:
Inspectors judged the evaluation of cost-effectiveness by governors and head teachers unfavourably in nearly two-thirds of the primary and nearly half of secondary schools. Few of the primary schools had, for example, procedures to monitor the effectiveness of their deployment of support staff; and while awareness about cost-effectiveness is increasing in secondary schools, few schools evaluate the cost of their procedures and plans …. Many schools require more rigorous methods for assessing the costs and opportunity costs of alternative plans.
(Ofsted, 1995, p.24)
On this assessment, there is clearly scope for improvement in the way we manage resources in schools and, in so doing, improve the quality of experiences provided. This book, based upon a study originally