Lord Agnew's latest cash-saving scheme: Stop colour photocopying

Schools should stop staff from making colour photocopies in order to save money, according to an education minister.

Lord Agnew, the minister for academies, told school business leaders that cutting down on “staggering” copying bills is “one small example” of how schools can save money.

Speaking at the ASCL conference for business leaders in Nottingham, Agnew, the founder and former chair of the Inspiration Trust, told the conference that last year his chain spent £245,000 on photocopying.

“When I drilled into it, I found that we inherited a number of very bad leases from where we had taken schools on,” he said. “I found that colour was being used indiscriminately which cost £10 a copy more than the black and white, and also photocopying was just being used too much.

“So we took the colour tab off the printers. That cut things down very easily and quickly. Changing the behaviour of teachers to not rely on photocopying so heavily is a longer exercise. But that’s just one small example of how you can actually make a difference in something which is not painful.”

It is not clear whether Agnew meant that colour copies cost £10 more than black and white for a single sheet or for multiple copies of the same document.

The minister also revealed that national deals brokered by the government to help schools save money on energy bills and hardware like printers and photocopiers have not had much take-up among schools.

He urged business leaders to tell the department if they felt the deals “just aren’t very good”.

“I know that people will say a lot of these things are peripheral to the major challenge of funding for schools, but we do spend some £10 billion a year in non-staff costs, which is a colossal sum of money, and I do think we can get considerable savings from there,” he said.

The minister also revealed that he did not know whether schools would have to fund an expected increase in teacher pay awards themselves, and admitted he was “ducking the question” when pressed on the topic by an audience member.

“The honest answer is that I don’t know,” he said. “I think that if it is a high award then the government will have to look at it. But we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

“What I can’t do is create an expectation that there’s some magic pot that’s going to be there. But it’s certainly a concern for us.”