Department for Education praises “shocking” employment practices to cut costs

Cuts at a Sheffield school were among £172m savings the School Resource Management Adviser pilot claims to have identified.

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Schools could save money by stopping staff pay outside of term-time to get “maximum value for money,” according to Department for Education (DfE) report. 

The report, an evaluation of the School Resource Management Adviser pilot, highlights cuts made by the Chapeltown Academy in Sheffield, where administration staff had their hours reduced to "term-time only" or 0.87 of a full time job. The report does not specify how much money was saved from the changes, but notes two staff members left "as part of normal staff turnover". Jon Richards, head of education and local government at Unison, told the Times Education Supplement it was wrong for the DfE to promote this “shocking” policy. In a comment piece for the TES, Richards argues that teaching and support staff need to be levelled up and treated the same as teachers, who are on yearly contracts.

The cuts at the school were some of the £172m savings the pilot claimed to have identified across 357 schools. To date, schools have implemented around 16 per cent of these recommended cuts. The report also highlighted examples where schools had made savings on catering and insurance contracts, and cuts to senior leadership.

The School Resource Management Adviser pilot began in 2017, with “school business professionals and headteachers” visiting schools to give peer-to-peer advice on “effective resource management”. The pilot originally claimed to have found a total of £35m in savings across 72 schools at the end of 2018, so it was extended to August 2020.

An investigation by Schools Week discovered the Chapeltown Academy had already independently started a programme to cut the number of senior managers before the pilot. Further to this, Schools Week found the recommendations made to the school were not costed and that the school had claimed an adviser from the pilot told them “we had not only cut to the bone, we had cut into it”.

Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, said in his forward to the evaluation, “I know that every school and academy trust will be working to optimise their spending decisions to ensure as much resource as possible goes into improving the educational outcomes for our young people.”

Samir Jeraj is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman

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