DfE to spend £2.3m on new army of cost-cutting consultants

The Department for Education plans to spend £2.3 million on at least 160 money-saving advisers who will be parachuted into struggling schools to help them cut costs.

A team of school resource management advisers has been working with a small number of schools since January, providing “impartial, expert business advice” on how to make best use of revenue and capital resources.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the trial, which also had involvement from the Institute of School Business Leadership, won positive feedback from the sector. It is now planning to significantly ramp up the scheme.

Official documents show the department wants to recruit at least 160 advisers over the course of between two and three years – however as many as 250 advisers could be recruited. It has set aside a pot of £2.3 million for the scheme.

Schools Week understands that advisers will be paid £400 a day, a similar rate to the pilot.

SRMAs have been well received by the schools and trusts in the pilot who can see the real value of this service.

Tender documents, published last Friday, show advisors will “help schools and trusts identify opportunities to make better use of their resources, enabling them to target resources where they have the most impact on outcomes for children.”

However in the “highest risk cases” advisers will provide “advice and support to address current or future forecast deficits”.

Schools Week understands that advisers will focus on schools’ staffing costs, including working with trust chief executives and senior leaders.

Matthew Clements-Wheeler, chair of the ISBL, told Schools Week: “The SRMA pilot demonstrated there is a demand for experienced help and support for managing school finance.

“This means looking at the tough decision and making unpopular choices. Whilst I would always advise for more money for schools, we have to understand that schools and trusts are ultimately limited by what the government is prepared to fund.”

The advisers will work with schools, academy trusts and local authorities, and the initial programme will run from October 2018 to the end of August 2020.

Another tender for an organisation to induct and accredit the advisers, valued at £152,000, closed earlier this week

The tender document states: “This is part of the department’s overarching objective to help schools improve outcomes for pupils and promote social mobility, by getting the best value from all of their resources.”

An initial expansion of the advisers network was announced by Lord Agnew, the academies minister, in May

Speaking to school business leaders, Agnew said the advisers will help to maximise resources and free up more time for teachers. At the time, ministers wanted to reach around 60 schools by the end of this month ahead of a national expansion in September.

Further details were confirmed in July, when the government officially announced its intention to put the contract out to tender, and heralded the initial pilot as “encouraging”.

“SRMAs have been well received by the schools and trusts in the pilot who can see the real value of this service. Initial findings from the pilot suggest we need to increase the number of SRMAs to meet current and future demand.”

Further details about the advisers is also included in the government’s new school resource management strategy. According to the document, the advisers will use data and benchmarking to “help schools understand their position and how it compares to that of schools which are
similar in characteristics and challenges”.

They will also help school leaders “establish the analysis and tools that will most help them in improving their school’s resource management”.

In some circumstances, they will also help schools and trusts develop approaches to planning that “combine curriculum and financial planning into a joint, data-informed exercise”.

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  1. Susan Watts

    In 2010 the new conservative government did away with Value for Money Consultants who were advising schools on all aspects of finance. Eight years later they realise that schools do need support with making the best of their funds. Think of all the money that could had been saved in the meantime!

  2. What a load of absolute rubbish..give the £400 a day to the schools that are struggling! I am constantly buying resources for my students out of my own money..we don’t need consultants…we need common sense !!

  3. School finances are already cut to the bone due to lack of adequate funding. Now the DfE plans to spend a couple of million parachuting consultants into schools to show them how to cut into the bone and scoop out the marrow.
    This will no doubt be hailed by Hinds et al as a positive way of supporting schools.

  4. Alison Bore

    What a joke ! If they have money like that spare – give it to schools for goodness sakes !! I just don’t believe how the government wastes money . . . For goodness sakes use the people on the ground you know teachers and heads etc they won’t charge you a fortune for their advice and it will probably be far more in depth and accurate !!!

  5. DannyEason

    Was this not the original intention when training hundreds of SBMs? It seems to me that those civil servants that have their fingers on the purse strings create fad ideas that they claim work at the time then clear off or retire, alternately the fact that they are advertising for solutions means they don’t know what to do next. If they were a school they would be RI most definitely.

  6. I would think the best solution would be to look at giving each educational establishment an equal budget to ensure their up to standard with OFSTED and ensure that the budgets are implemented on a fixed based list
    – IT
    – Staff training
    – Refurbishments

    There are plenty of ways to cut costs but the DfE and the schools need to be willing to accept and adapt to changes.
    – Subscription models
    – Staff engagement
    – Set wage structures

    Would be more than happy to set up a project plan for DfE towards educational IT and how best to provide cost effective solutions but this never seems to be an option.

  7. If he DfE spent 2.3 million on supporting schools to give the highest priority to tackling teacher stress and Burnout and putting teachers first, schools would more than save this amount in supply cover for absence and recruitment. Teachers would want to stay in their schools and in the profession, solving the shortage crisis, and applicants to teaching training would increase. Vacancies would decrease. Teachers would be able to focus better on Teaching and Learning and learners would make better progress. Results would improve. How do I know this? Because schools that have implemented well-being programmes have said so. Read about them at

  8. Stephen walker

    And whose jobs and wages will be cut. Senior leaders and executives. The first recommendation should be to cut the 100k plus and often much more of the executives draining the finances of schools. Sorry academies. This is really a further sign of government waste and rewarding those who are taking money out of education. Money that should be invested in the children. Not the bloated salaries of so called executives. If these were any good at their jobs. Four hy dried pou d a day adviser’s would not be perceived as an expensive option.