Grampian flies solo and pupils scale the heights
THERE was inevitable trepidation in some quarters when it was mooted that schools should be given much greater control of their budgets.
That concern was not only on the part of councillors, unhappy at the prospect of losing a considerable degree of their influence.
Though they would probably not admit it, some head teachers might have also felt intimidated by having responsibility for an overall budget running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
After all, their whole careers would have been geared to attaining excellence in teaching standards, both on their own part and from their colleagues.
Now, significant expertise in financial management was being demanded of them as well – the ability to secure the best deal on school meals, computer supplies, building repairs and dozens of other areas that previously would have been handled centrally by the local education authority.
Maybe one or two of them have had their problems, because there are plainly some advantages and good deals to be secured by a council bulk-buying supplies or services.
But if you are looking for an example of a school that has turned the system to massive advantage, then look no further than Grampian Primary School in Sinfin.
Derby's primary schools have a rotten reputation nationally for inadequate standards, so what has taken place at Grampian, under head Chris Perkins, is a perfect riposte to the critics.
It has seen its SATs results for 11-year-olds rise from 27% attaining level four in 2009 to 93% passing that mark in 2012.
By any standards, that is amazing progress – powering Grampian into the top 2% most improved schools in the country.
The academic success is being attributed to the presence of two teachers in every classroom.
That might seem unheard of in these days of financial strife everywhere – but Grampian has managed it with astute budget management.
Having a ratio of one teacher to every 10 pupils will have other schools green with envy – and wondering if Mr Perkins' forename is not Chris, but Merlin.
He does have the advantage of a banking and finance degree and has also maximised the cash advantages of academy status in recent months.
You can't divorce finance from education. But this is primarily a success story of finding a system which enables pupils to be given the individual daily attention they need to fulfil their potential.
Parents – and, in the fullness of time, the children – will be grateful that this school did not allow the inevitable union wrangles in the early days of this revolution to be a distraction from a triumphant outcome.