New £33k awards scheme for DfE finance staff

The government has been criticised for setting aside £33,000 for a new awards scheme for civil servants just as it warns teachers’ pay rises should be capped at 2 per cent.

The “chief executive awards”, which have been introduced by Eileen Milner, the head of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), rewards winning employees with £500 each.

The agency has set aside £33,000 from its “existing awards budget” to fund the prize, but would not say how much money was allocated in total to that awards budget.

The awards are in addition to current schemes and have not replaced any other systems or processes.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said the awards were “directed at all ESFA staff to reward colleagues whose actions demonstrate initiative and have significant impact in relation to departmental priorities and ways of working”.

But Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is not a good time to be spending money on this awards scheme, given that the education secretary has just suggested the pay settlement to teachers should be capped at a miserly 2 per cent and that it should be paid out of school budgets, which are under immense pressure and cannot afford further unfunded costs.”

Minutes from an ESFA management board meeting in January say the new “rewards system” had “received positive engagement and is reaching more staff”.

Peter Lauener, the ESFA’s former chief executive, was given a bonus of between £20,000 and £25,000 when he left the agency in November last year. Six other bonuses of between £5,000 and £10,000 were also paid to senior staff.

Ofsted has also come under fire for last year awarding senior staff bonuses totalling £75,000.