Early Learning & Childcare Development Worker | Everyone’s Children project
Between August and October 2017, I carried out research to find out the views of Third Sector organisations on their experiences of the procurement process and contracting with schools for Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) in Glasgow.
PEF was announced in December 2016, as part of the Scottish Government draft budget. It provided a total of £120m for schools to use at their discretion to close the attainment gap in 2017-18. The funding was allocated directly to schools, based on P1 – S3 eligibility for free school meals.
Schools were urged to to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people by working in partnership with a range of bodies such as parent groups, parent councils, Third Sector organisations, other educational sectors, and centres of expertise.
Schools in Glasgow received a total of £21,602,400 in PEF and had a limited time to submit proposals. Guidance was issued in January 2017 and initial plans submitted by the end of March. Schools were asked to implement from April 2017, where possible.
In order to get an insight into Third Sector experiences, I interviewed managers and practitioners from ten organisations working with children, young people and families in Glasgow. Most of these organisations had participated in the PEF commissioning process with varying degrees of success.
One of the organisations said that they were aware of PEF before the guidance was issued, while most of the other organisations were not aware of PEF until the commissioning process was already underway. One organisation was unsure as to when they became aware of the process.
All of the organisations attended at least one networking event, but eight of the ten organisations interviewed also made direct contact with schools regarding PEF. The other two organisations decided not to participate in the commissioning process.
Six of the organisations (of the eight who participated in the commissioning process) were critical of how the process operated. The main issues they identified were:
- The process was too short
- There was insufficient advance notice and information for both organisations and head teachers
- Head teachers were not aware of what services were available
- The process encouraged the marketisation of the Third Sector at the expense of the genuine needs of pupils
- Lack of clarity as to how and when PEF monies would be paid
- Lack of sustainability due to the short-term nature of the funding
Organisations that contacted schools directly and had pre-written and costed proposals were more successful in contracting with schools than those whose approach was to try and engage schools in a discussion about their needs. Five of the ten organisations I interviewed were ultimately commissioned by schools for a range of services including play sessions, physical wellbeing and support for learning. All of the organisations commissioned this year are hoping to continue their contracts with schools into the next year of funding
One organisation was interviewed after they had already begun working with schools and they described having difficulties managing the expectations of teachers about what they were able to provide and how quickly they could expect to see results.
There were mixed views amongst the organisations about the effectiveness of networking events for schools and Third Sector organisations. One organisation said that an event helped them to make contacts and they were commissioned by a school as a result, while another said that they used their existing school contacts to secure contracts, though they felt networking events were still worthwhile. Others said that networking events needed to be organised earlier in the process to be useful.
Most of the organisations thought that GCVS could take on an “honest broker” role, which would involve GCVS helping schools to link with local Third Sector organisations and vice versa, though they emphasised that this should be done locally rather than on a citywide basis. They were also largely positive about the idea of producing directories of organisations in specific parts of the city and making these available to headteachers.
- Everyone’s Children project held two further networking events in 2017 (in North West and North East Glasgow) in conjunction with the Citywide Forum (Children, Young People and Families) and local voluntary sector networks. These enabled Third Sector organisations to meet with Health and Social Care Staff and head teachers. Both had excellent turnouts (100+ people) and good feedback from participants about the opportunities to meet. A further networking event is planned for 2018.
- A directory of local Third Sector services was developed for each event. These were very well received and teachers, in particular, commented that they did not know that there were so many local services. The Everyone’s Children Project is continuing to expand the directories, which are now available here.
- GCVS now has a place on the Glasgow Education Improvement Board, an officer group that supports schools to meet the National Improvement Framework. It includes Glasgow Council Education Services staff, Glasgow Life staff and head teachers from Glasgow primary and secondary schools.
- Everyone’s Children staff are giving presentations to groups of schools about the benefits of partnership working with the Third Sector, and offering to support and co-ordinate local networking events.
The report made a number of recommendations as to how the PEF commissioning process could be improved. Firstly, that the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council should examine research into what initiatives have been shown to be effective in closing the attainment gap, as well as reports on the use of the pupil premium in England and Wales. This can be used to inform future guidance for headteachers on spending the pupil equity monies. Furthermore, GCVS should continue to promote the Third Sector, organise further networking events for organisations to engage with schools and provide training to organisations on pricing services and developing proposals.