The continued fragmentation of services has undermined the natural connections between high performing local authority support services to schools and the education sector itself. APSE’s latest research - written in collaboration with CIPFA - looks at the position regarding the provision of a selection of discretionary support services to schools by local authorities.
A key finding of the research is that services to schools are increasingly marketised, with procurement decisions made by governing bodies, often driven by price, and in isolation to a broader consideration of managing the school estate holistically; this, the report argues, can undermine quality considerations and lead to a loss of professional knowledge and skills. This has destabilised the natural connections between high performing local authority support services to schools and the education sector itself.
The report finds that school support services are increasingly expected to function as traded services; de facto business units that sell services to schools. It found that the commercial functioning of support services to schools can create a conflict between the objectives of local councils, in supporting social justice outcomes in local economies and a price driven culture in the procurement functions of schools and academies and MATs. This can raise questions of subsidy, and support in areas such as the Living Wage, with many school support staff being relatively low paid part time women workers.
The report also found that to re-establish the connections with schools as the preferred service provider or to maintain their existing school-client base the schools support sector faces a number of challenges. The report makes a number of specific recommendations to the schools support sector.