Cost of regional schools commissioners soars to £26 million

The cost of the national and regional schools commissioners has sky-rocketed, from just £4 million when the roles were established in 2014 to £26 million last year, Schools Week can reveal.

The price tag for the commissioners and their teams is expected to rise again for the current financial year, to an estimated £31.2 million, according to figures obtained through a freedom of information request.

Fears that the eight RSCs’ budgets would spiral out of control were raised in February last year, after the government revealed staff and administration costs had risen to more than £650,000 per region.

Schools minister Lord Nash confirmed that each of the eight commissioners was getting £520,000 a year to spend on salaries and expenses for between eight and 10 employees, on top of £40,000 for events and communication, and £100,000 to compensate employers of the leaders who sit on their headteacher boards.

Jonathan Crossley-Holland, education consultant and former director for children’s services at Sheffield City Council, said the increasing costs were evidence that the RSCs have become a middle tier of oversight for schools.

“These are enormous increases,” he said. “When Michael Gove announced the setting of RSCs in 2012 he was adamant that they were not a new middle tier. Clearly, this is what an RSC now is.

“What is very disappointing is that this has happened by stealth without a proper public debate about their role and how they can be held accountable locally.”

When questioned on the rising costs, a DfE spokesperson told Schools Week the increase was down to the RSC teams taking on more staff.

She said: “The increased costs reflect a restructure within the department in 2015/16 to ensure the wider work on academies was more aligned with the regional schools commissioners’ activity.

“As the number of academies and free schools has increased, the eight RSCs have recruited strong teams to support their work to provide effective oversight of schools and advise the national school commissioner and ministers.”

When the NSC and RSC roles were first established in July 2014, to oversee the growing numbers of academies across country, set-up and running costs came in at just £4.1 million. This funding came from the Department for Education’s existing budget and covered July 2014 to March 2015.

The combined costs of the NSC, at the time Frank Green, and the RSCs was similar for the financial year 2015-16, at £4.7 million of the DfE’s allocated funding, but the figure leapt to £26.3 million in 2016-17.

In June 2016 Schools Week reported that each RSC would now have two deputy directors, paid up to £95,000, and a further individual would be appointed to support new NSC Sir David Carter with his work.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the climbing cost of the RSC network called into question whether it was “fit for purpose”.

She pointed out that the size of the regions managed by the RSCs and the rapid expansion of a number of MATs makes it a challenge to keep up with what is going on in each academy.

“At keys stage 4 we’ve got over 50 per cent of MATs underperforming, at key stage 2 its 50 per cent, and the RSCs don’t seem to be able to be effective in stopping the scandals which have rocked the system so badly,” she added.

“All this growth in the RSCs is a desperate attempt to try and get a handle on an increasingly incoherent and dysfunctional system.”


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  1. The new recipe for success.
    1) Take LAs and remove 99% of their powers, along with local accountability.
    2) Create 1 role to replace them.
    3) Suddenly realise one person cannot replace the work of hundreds of staff coordinating half a million teachers and 8 million students. (no-one saw that coming)
    4) Bung in £30 million of tax payers’ money.
    5) Employ more bureaucrats called RSCs and staff of RSCs.
    6) Do not replace local accountability, so scandals and fraud become endemic in the system. Do not publish reports on what is actually going on even when FOI requests are made.
    7) Make Hedge Fund Managers into Lordships and give them control of the DfE so chances of accountability go even lower.
    8) Swap ownership of schools with your mates like some sort of Premier League Football Club ownership game for rich people.
    9) Get your tame accountability framework called OFSTED to blame headteachers for everything but make sure they are completely silent on the fiasco that has been created.
    10) Now everyone is silenced and big bucks are available, start recruiting teachers without degrees so you can pay them peanuts and make more profits for the Hedge Fund Guys.

    • Mark Watson

      Without wishing to stop the flow of such wonderful paranoid conspiracies, can you explain how “the Hedge Fund Guys” (presumably your version of the New World Order) “make more profits”?
      These are the people who according to you are “given control of the DfE” – how exactly is it they extract money for their own benefit?


        The school was also embroiled in controversy over the involvement of a local businessman, Alan Lewis, a vice-chairman of the Conservative party, whose company leased the property the school is built on to the DfE in a deal worth nearly £6m.

        The school at one point named Lewis as its chair of governors. But Lewis said the listing was a mistake and that he had never occupied the role. Instead, he was the school’s “executive patron”.

          • Mark Watson

            Yeah, that article makes rather clear that the minister’s daughter is unpaid.
            So I’m having difficulty seeing how, even if Lord Nash was 100% responsible for ensuring his daughter was given her position, is making profits for himself (and/or his family) when she appears not be taking any money out of the system at all.
            Perhaps you can explain how this is enriching the Nash family?

        • Mark Watson

          Nice try.
          A couple of minutes checking online reveals Alan Lewis has never been a director of Dixons Academies Charitable Trust Ltd (or indeed its predecessor KIFSA Ltd) so as matter of law has never been a Trustee of the academy trust. Are you, and the Guardian, basing your insinuations on the fact that the school may have made an error in putting information onto its website?
          I wonder if the Guardian spent 5 minutes checking with the school why it had listed him as the chair of governors when he wasn’t registered at Companies House.
          I wonder if anyone submitted a FOIA request for Board Meeting minutes during the period in question which would have listed all attendees and their roles?
          Also, are you saying that the vice-chair of the Conservative Party with responsibility for business “controls the DfE” as per your original New World Order ‘recipe for success’ point 7?

          • Mark Watson

            No they haven’t because all they’ve said is that Alan Lewis “was a key benefactor and supporter”.
            It’s rather a leap from that uncontroversial statement to claim, as you seem to be doing, that he personally enriched himself as a result of a related party transaction.
            You’ve made a grandstanding (and very serious) claim that people in control of the DfE are enriching themselves from the public purse and yet you seem to be remarkably light on substantive evidence …