From education to employment

DfE and ESFA and a Favourite Song: Don’t Pay The Ferryman

Steve Lawrence, MD of EEVT Ltd

The repetitive lyrics are believed to have a connection with mythology. The song describes the ferryman as “the hooded old man at the rudder”, and seems to connect to the classic image of the Grim Reaper, a hooded being (usually a skeleton) who leads lost souls to “the other side”, also a lyric in the song.

The ferryman demanding his payment is also similar to the Greek ferryman of the dead, Charon. He demanded an obolus (coin) to ferry dead souls across the River Styx. Those who did not pay were doomed to remain as ghosts, remaining on the plane of the mare, the restless dead.

So, over the past six weeks more and more has been about pay and wages and costs in Education. On the school front they appear to be getting more funds and possibly Colleges as well.

So often we see items crop up such as an academy trust ordered by the government to find savings to balance the books has slashed its chief executive’s £225,000 salary by more than a third, accounts show.

Now I know indirectly the Rodillian Multi-Academy Trust, which runs four schools in Yorkshire, paid its chief executive Andy Goulty between £225,000 and £230,000 in 2019-20.

It puts him in the top 20 best-paid academy bosses in the country. But its latest accounts show he received between £140,000 and £145,000 in the year to September 2021 – a cut of at least £80,000.

Now again I could tell you that being in charge of all these staff, the learners and the buildings. We see the Government wish for the Private sector to create and take over the needs of schools in areas of need, on the one hand says we want this but you cannot be paid more than this on the other hand.

BBG Academy Bradford Road, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire BD19 4BE, Ofsted said with 973 Learners Good. Then Rodillian Academy Wakefield with some 1637 learners, Ofsted said Good. Then the Featherstone Academy 398 learners Ofsted said Good. Then the Brayton Academy in Selby with 590 learners Ofsted said Outstanding.

So if we look at that then this person is in charge of some 3,598 learners. This works out for a year he is paid £62.25 per learner and this is also being in charge of safeguarding, Teachers and all that goes with it and divided by 12 months as he is responsible if open or closed goes down to £5.21 per learner per month. Then for 28 days a month 18 p per learner per day.

So now he gets £185,000 and if we do the same sums. Now he gets £51.41 per year per learner, divide that by 12 months now £4.28 per month per learner and divide by 28 days 15p per learner per day.

I say with all the challenges, staffing and plus maintaining quality teaching as noted by Ofsted, that is not much looking at the headlines yes, but dig deeper and this is very good value for money, I think with all the responsibility?

However, going back to paying or not paying the ferryman, in my mind I see the people on the ferry as the Front Line and Middle Management. The Ferryman is the DfE. 

The ferryman demanding his payment is also similar to the Greek ferryman of the dead, Charon. He demanded an obolus (coin) to ferry dead souls across the River Styx.

Those who did not pay were doomed to remain as ghosts, remaining on the plane of the mare, the restless dead.

Yes, the DfE needs to get their dues paid in provision of quality training, but they want more and more for the same payment.

Many items around this relates to staff pay and recruitment; with the changes in delivery, this means three things:

1. Staff who are great and have moved with the times but are not as many as we need but require more money and the price for them has gone Sky High.

2. The ones which want to change but do not have the training or the availability to change jobs as they are stuck and to remain as ghosts, remaining on the plane of the mare, the restless dead.

3. The ones who will never change and just either move around and do work here and there or are stuck in an unfunded provision.

Other areas like SEND need more funds, which are promised but are they there, and do they reach front line delivery?

Like the £7 million to boost the support offered to 11,300 Year 11 pupils making the transition from secondary school into post-16 education, work, or training, amid concerns that many may become unemployed after completing their GCSEs.

This was on its way in June 2020. Did it come out where did it go?

In my work I see a two-pronged situation, where both Quality Staff and Recruitment costs and wages are key items and drivers.

The other day I talked to several recruitment companies, and they all said that quality staff are hard to find and the cost in wages has grown.

Paul Whiteman

Then we have items as highlighted by Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:  

“We’ve seen school leadership pay eroded for everyone over the last decade, but for those with protected characteristics, including leaders from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, they risk facing a “double hit” as a result of inequalities in the pay system.”

I am sure we can all agree the last couple of years have been a roller coaster of emotions which has seen businesses and individuals reconsider lots of different aspects of what’s important to them and how that impacts future plans. Lots of employers shed staff as the pandemic caused uncertainty and panic.

Those that were furloughed got to experience more time at home with no work pressures and this has led to many rethinking what they want out of life, and this has translated into a much tougher working wish list!

Spencer Mehlman – Founder & MD of The National Skills Agency

I was lucky and managed to talk with Spencer Mehlman Managing Director National Skills Agency who just works within the Apprenticeship & Training Sector.

I asked Spencer and he said:

“As a specialist recruiter to the sector we have seen these changes first-hand. The current market is certainly candidate led, there is a real battle for talent and a shortage of good people.”

I asked him to send through his ideas and below are some key points to consider for training providers followed by just a few suggestions for candidates to hopefully help ensure all parties come together successfully.

Current hiring tips for training providers:

  • Start the process as early as possible, be ahead of the game
  • Be as flexible as you can re hybrid or remote working
  • Put together a detailed spec ensuring it outlines all the benefits
  • Check out Glass Door- how is your organisation perceived?
  • Try to make the interview process as short as possible. When the process stretches to 3 or 4 interviews, or the time frame drags into 3-4 weeks you are very likely to lose the candidate!
  • Candidates in the current market often have 2-3 interviews underway and may have several offers to choose from. If you take too long or make the process too convoluted, the chances are you will be starting the hiring process again
  • Ensure your salaries and benefits are in line with the market- there is still quite a lot of disparity. Those who are paying at the lower end of the market are seeing a steady stream of resignations and this is holding back their growth plans and unsettling current clients
  • If you make an offer, get the paperwork/email out ASAP
  • Cultural fit is important – can they meet team members and get a tour of the office

Retaining your people is key.

Losing a talented team member causes more than just a vacancy. It takes time and energy to replace them. Often their workload is put onto the existing team before a new person is fully up to speed.

This can affect the general morale and sets the wrong tone. Their loss can impact a client relationship and have bigger implications if the transition isn’t as seamless as possible. 

A few obvious tips but worth reiterating:

  • Regular reviews
  • Sensible targets
  • Team events
  • Recognise employee’s hard work
  • Upgrade your equipment where possible
  • Flexible approach to working schedules
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Promote from within if possible
  • Good communication and collaboration

Here are a few tips for those looking for, or considering looking for, a new role:

Firstly, have you fully explored whether your current employer can meet what you are now looking for?

  • Take the time to make a list of what’s important to you. Is money the key driver? Could it just be recognition? Or flexible working? Try to understand what is really driving this decision
  • Check out employers’ Glass Door – what do their people really think?
  • Do you have anyone in your network currently working within the company you are looking at
  • Don’t make your conversations all around money and benefits, employers want to ensure you have bought into them and the journey they are on
  • Research employers and show you have done your homework
  • Demonstrate that you can be flexible and are a team player
  • Have a short concise CV but let your summary show your passion and your successes to date

Spencer then noted that our sector is in a unique and influential position to help the UK economy. Several providers were already using remote delivery, and this has enabled training and coaching delivery to continue throughout the pandemic which has given greater flexibility to all parties. 

There are skills shortages across the UK that can only be addressed through the effective use of apprenticeships and training. We have an opportunity to embed this learning culture into all businesses and this starts with all of us in the sector hiring and motivating the best people to share and deliver this agenda.

I thought this is great and he understands all aspects. Now several other issues around this are costs to colleges and Independent Providers, be these wages, bonuses or payments to find the right person via advertising or use of an agency. Also, external auditors’ costs for reports for the ESFA, Covid and extra costs for online and Health and Safety items.

This comes down to what is paid to deliver the quality service to the end user, learners and employers, along with secondary costs from Awarding Organisations, Technology and overheads which go up year on year.

Again, I look at Inductions on both AEB and Apprentices and often this can take a full day or two days; however, you do not get paid for the delivery. Add on Administration costs and being paid your first funds maybe seven weeks after the first delivery of training.

Also an organisation I am a member of just had an Ofsted. They have 29 learners and the Ofsted Team was in total seven inspectors and they talked to seven learners.

What is this cost wise and is this value for money?   Another Ofsted two days for a monitoring visit for two Apprentices for two days.

So ESFA, Treasury, DfE when you think about doing your work and I say well sorry not going to pay you for six weeks after you did the work and maybe some of that work, we will not pay you for as it is preparation. Would you be happy?

It is front line staff that need wages to match their own needs. College staff have the unions who take action and are able to push forward pay rises. The more we travel on this Ferry the more people may disappear into the mist and many already have gone.

The conclusion is if funds do come through it has to be going to Front line staff, also Independent Training Providers need more funds, to pay the going rate, and keep getting quality staff or updating staff, otherwise the Industry will suffer along with learners and employers on the Training provision. They need to Pay the Ferryman!!

Steve Lawrence RSA Dip MIVA MREC AIfL, Managing Director

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  1. I have had three feedback items and all three say good however one does note its ok to say all this however how do we get the DFE and ESFA to take note. One way is items like the Petition
    Protect student choice: do not withdraw funding for BTEC qualifications
    Reverse the plan to withdraw funding for most applied general qualifications such as BTECs and guarantee they will continue to play a major role in the qualifications landscape. Students should not be forced to choose between studying A levels or T levels from the age of 16. This has some 84,000 people who have put there signatures. So if you are one of the 16,000 more needed then go to