DfE budgeting advice sparks angry reaction from NEU

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A toolkit offering support and advice to help reduce school running costs has been published by the Department for Education (DfE).

And the DfE has added eight more entries to its register of recommended best value deals for schools, which covers things such as ICT, audit services, energy and utilities and office equipment.

Last year schools in England spent around £10 billion on non-staffing costs and the DfE believes that it is possible to save up to £1 billion of this money through “better procurement and buying strategies”. Between 2014/15 and 2016/17 schools cut £106 million on non-staff spending.

However, the National Education Union is angry at the suggestion that the solution to school funding problems is better budgeting and has repeated its calls for an additional £2 billion to be added to the national schools budget.

The toolkit – School Resource Management Strategy – offers practical advice and information, such as how to work collaboratively with other schools to drive down costs on things like stationery, energy and water bills, as well as supporting schools with staff recruitment and retention.

Elsewhere, the DfE has also pledged to tackle excessive fees charged by teaching recruitment agencies. It has published a register that will set out agency mark-ups and help schools avoid agencies which charge fees for making temporary staff permanent – these can be as much as 30 per cent of an annual salary. The DfE has also said it will provide a free platform for schools to advertise vacancies – which costs on average £75 million a year.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “I want to help schools use their resources as effectively as possible. This strategy equips headteachers and school business professionals with the practical advice, resources and support they need so that they can focus on what they do so well – delivering high-quality education for their pupils.

“There can be no great schools without great teachers to inspire and motivate children, so it’s absolutely right that we help schools to maximise the money they have to spend in the classroom by working together, making sure they’re getting the best deals and are not being overcharged for services.”

However, Nansi Ellis, the NEU’s assistant general secretary, said that more funding is needed in the schools budget:

“Headteachers will be justifiably furious at the suggestion from Damian Hinds that the school funding crisis is an issue that can be resolved through better budgeting.

“The majority of schools have already pared their out-goings and costs down to the bone, and even with bulk purchasing and other economies of scale they cannot match the scale of the problem facing schools. Schools urgently need an additional £2 billion to restore per-pupil funding to 2015/16 levels. It is high time Damian Hinds accepted this is a real problem and stopped tinkering around at the edges.”

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