The management of delegated systems of school finance with special reference to the operation of the Cheshire Cost Centre scheme

Davies, K (1990). The management of delegated systems of school finance with special reference to the operation of the Cheshire Cost Centre scheme. MPhil thesis The Open University.



Initially the historical development of moves towards delegated school finance is outlined. This is followed by a critical review of English and American experience of delegated school finance to isolate the key factors in the successful operation of delegated finance in schools. The theoretical basis of resource management is then reviewed by considering the perspectives that can be drawn from budgetary theory to establish an framework for analysing delegated school finance in practice.

The case study research focuses on the LEA and school level. The LEA research reviews the development of the Cheshire "Cost Centre" scheme from 1975-85. It then evaluates the impact of the scheme at school level at the end of this period. Monitoring of LEA policy developments between 1986 and 1988 traces the attempt to gain consensus between the LEA and the Trade Union representatives on increased financial devolution. The breakdown of consensus and the use of political decision-making approaches are revealed as external national pressures forces the LEA into more radical changes. The school research evaluates in detail the operation of delegated finance over a two-year period in an 11-18 Cheshire comprehensive school from 1986 to 1988. The case study examines how the flexibility of financial provision is used in the resource management process. There is an analysis of the way in which rational and political management approaches are utilised as a basis for resource decision-making by the participants in the school.

By reviewing theory and practice in the final chapter, the thesis presents a number of conclusions. In assessing whether a rational approach correctly describes the resource management process in delegated finance schools an unproven verdict is arrived at. Significant political and rational elements in decision-making are evident and a combination of perspectives is required to correctly explain the process. The lessons that can be learnt by other schools are threefold. Firstly, the key management areas from the literature review in Chapter Two (p38) provide a checklist of questions for the successful management of delegation. Secondly, the analytical framework in Chapter Three (p57/60) does provide a method of assessing delegated resource management in schools. Thirdly and most significantly, it is essential to move away from an input-based approach in the operation of delegated finance and to consider how the flexibility of delegated finance can be used to more effectively meet the needs of pupils in the 1990"s.

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