School funding

Funding mistake won’t rip up DfE staff reward voucher scheme

Department says it would be 'unfair to penalise junior staff' for funding gaffe

Department says it would be 'unfair to penalise junior staff' for funding gaffe

A school funding blunder will not affect a reward voucher scheme for civil servants, the Department for Education has said.

A spokesperson said it would be “unfair to penalise junior staff from across the department, who are most often the recipients of non-cash rewards” for an error that shaved £370 million off indicative school budgets for 2024-25.

Ministers recently confirmed the DfE paid out £445,000 in non-cash vouchers to employees in 2022-23.

It prompted questions about whether the scheme would continue this year after the revelation that funding allocations data sent out in July was incorrect.

The department admitted last month that it had made a pupil number calculation error that would have inflated the total schools budget by 0.62 per cent. As a result, it revised down the expected school funding increase for next year from 2.7 to 1.9 per cent.

Based on these figures, the average secondary school will be £57,970 worse-off than predicted in July, and the average primary £12,420.

‘Unfair’ to punish junior staff

A DfE spokesperson said non-cash vouchers were “standard practice across the private sector and in government, and it’s right that we recognise staff who go above and beyond”. 

Susan Acland-Hood
Susan Acland Hood

Susan Acland-Hood, the department’s permanent secretary, “has taken full responsibility for the NFF technical error”, they added.

“It would be unfair to penalise junior staff…for this mistake that has not changed the total schools’ budget for 2024-25 or impacted on current school funding for 2023-24.”

The amount handed to DfE staff in the form of vouchers has increased in recent years. Between 2017 and 2019, amounts ranged from £289,000 to £353,000, but £753,000 was issued in 2020-21.

That rise “was due to a new HR system being launched in the department, with an increase made to the instant reward budget”.

“This was to enable rewards to continue during a wider payroll freeze and a corresponding reduction in other reward budgets.”

The DfE paid out £469,000 in 2021-22.

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