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.”

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  1. Mark Watson

    Is there an intention for this to come across as snide reporting, trying to make it seem like saving money on printing is the Government’s answer to the funding crisis?
    Because of course it’s not. It sounds like very sensible advice that’s been rolled out in most other businesses already. I know my company has made a big deal of using black and white printing unless absolutely necessary, and sending post second class if possible. No, it’s not going to make the world of difference but it’s trying to get everyone in schools to accept some form of responsibility with regards to not wasting money.
    If we have a problem with people in any sector unnecessarily wasting money, be it on colour printing, leaving lights on, etc. then it should be addressed.
    Would be interesting to know how much Inspiration Trust reduced their printing costs by …

    • ‘Outgoing NAHT president Kim Johnson attacked suggestions that schools need to make efficiency savings.’

      ‘“It’s quite insulting to have ministers say to you ‘you need to renegotiate your photocopying contract, perhaps think about the paper you’re getting in, club together with six other schools and you’ll get it cheaper’.’

      Press Association, just over a year ago.

      Lord Agnew not only stating the obvious but he’s repeating something that’s already been suggested.

      • Mark Watson

        Well if it hasn’t sunk in, it needs to be repeated until it does.
        And what a world we live in if a union big wig thinks its insulting for schools to need to make efficiency savings. Beggars belief.

        • Mark – you’ve set up a strawman. Kim Johnson did NOT say it was insulting for schools to be told about the need to make efficiency savings. Johnson said it was insulting to be told the glaringly obvious.

          • Mark Watson

            OK, you said “Kim Johnson attacked suggestions that schools need to make efficiency savings”. So with my knowledge of English I took that to mean he does not agree with the position that schools should make efficiency savings. Perhaps you can explain how you interpret that differently.
            And maybe Kim Johnson did find it insulting to be told the glaringly obvious. What relevance does that have? Things have to be repeated to sink in – I’d bet my house that the school sector continues to use colour printing more than is necessary, on the basis that so does everyone else, so repeating the advice is a good idea.
            I think it’s glaringly obvious that smoking cigarettes is bad for your health. By your logic the Department of Health should make one statement about it and leave it to that, because repeating the advice not to smoke would be insulting.

  2. Debra Kidd

    It costs £10 per copy more to print in colour than black and white? Really? I think someone might need to revisit a Year 1 maths class.

  3. Maybe his time, given his varying roles, would be better spent
    a. Getting his Trust to produce a detailed case-study with a breakdown of all the cost-savings made, for other schools to scrutinise and benchmark against… and
    b. actually making sure that the folk setting up his much trumpeted “national deals brokered by the government to help schools save money on energy bills and hardware like printers and photocopiers” do a better job. School Business Leaders can produce better deals for just one school in a single phone call. They are fortunately far-removed from the esoteric padded accounts generally favoured by government suppliers.

  4. Chalkface

    One way of saving money in the schools system would be to not allow CEOs of small academy chains to pay themselves and their deputies and other senior leaders astronomic unjustifiable salaries.

    • Mark Watson

      According to this, Inspiration Trust (which has 14 schools) spent £245,000 on photocopying. It’s a massive simplification, but scaling that up to the 22,000 odd maintained schools in England gives an annual spend of £385,000,000 on photocopying.
      I’ve no idea what the potential savings are, but saving 10% of that would therefore yield an extra £38,500,000 for schools.
      Hardly peripheral.

      • Anthony Walsh

        Has anyone looked at the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of a document when printed, there are many factors to consider before we can make sweeping statements regards how much we are spending.
        I would recommend that any school business manager take time to seek the advice of someone who has managed a University or large FE College Reprographics Service Provison to assist them in their Managed Print Solution.
        The cost of print and copy has easily identifiable visible overheads, these are merely the tip of the Iceberg, the greater costs between 60% and 70% are hidden below the surface, I assume Mr Mark Watson who I believe is familiar with my comments and has a solid background knowledge of the subject.
        How many of our larger schools and smaller colleges are without a dedicated Reprographics Officer and print room the post generally attracts a salary of between £16k -£25k pro rata per annum, as they are often term time only posts. Where necessary and deployed effectively a Reprographics provision would recover the salary costs several times over in the course of the business, I have the quantitative analysis to support this statement from my own school.
        May I use a simple analogy, it is obviously better value not to have our most valuable employees (teachers) copying and printing documents, I can’t imagine a premiership manager deciding that next Saturday their top striker will be making the half time tea and the caterer shall be playing on the pitch for them.

        Colour pages should be costing the business in the region of:
        3p to 5p per side
        Mono pages should be costing the business in the region of:
        0.05p – 1p per side

        This would be inclusive costs dependent on the volumes you are producing, materials used, the effectiveness of the Reprographics Teams production methods and your supply chain management.

        One final comment there is another important cost we all seem to be overlooking our environmental impact , after all when we are investing as much time and effort into preparing young people for the future in the world, I’d like to think that we are doing our best to ensure that there’s a world out there for them…..

  5. Highest paid MAT CEO £600000/ £0.12 per colour copy = 5m colour copies. 5m colour / 24000 children in the English state system = 208.33333 colour copies per annum for every single child in the system. For some things there is always money.