Revealed: £120k ‘cost-cutter’ savings at case study school were already being implemented

Most schools have taken at least one measure to reduce spending in the last year, a new survey shows

Cost-cutting measures that saved £120,000 at an academy singled out as a success story of Lord Agnew’s controversial resource management adviser scheme were actually already being implemented, Schools Week can reveal.

Academies minister Lord Agnew highlighted recently how Chapeltown Academy, in Sheffield, had reviewed its senior leadership structure, saving £120,000 per year, a change it said was “made after” working with a school resource management adviser.

An evaluation of the scheme published last month, which highlighted Chapeltown as a case study, added that “following the [SRMA] visit” the restructure was one of the “agreed recommendations”.

But the actual SRMA report for Chapeltown, seen by Schools Week, reveals the academy was already “looking to rationalise” the senior leadership team, with a “redundancy programme in the process of being finalised” at the time of the adviser visit.

The SLT savings also weren’t among the 12 opportunities/recommendations in the report.

Furthermore, in the response to a Freedom of Information releasing the report, the academy stated they were told by the adviser “we had not only cut to the bone, we had cut into it”.

They added, as the recommendations were not costed in the report, it showed “there were no savings to be made”.

However – despite appearing as a case study in the evaluation report – the government said Chapeltown’s savings were not included in its figures on the overall savings identified by advisers.

Launching a new money-saving scheme today, Agnew said the SRMA visits had identified potential re-investments of around £350,000 on average per trust visited.

He now says they have identified a total of £172 million of savings under the scheme, a finding used to back up his argument not all schools are operating efficiently.

But last year Schools Week revealed how trusts claimed their reports included savings that had already been made, or had been identified and actioned.

Chapeltown did not respond to a request for comment when approached by Schools Week.

But headteacher Dayle Coe, in a comment used in the government’s case study, said the visit was a chance to discuss savings in an “open and productive manner” with all actions “agreed in a collegiate and collaborative way”.

Agnew highlighted the changes as having a positive impact on pupils, with Chapeltown able to “free up funds to add extra classes in popular subjects to its timetable, recruiting two new psychology teachers to meet pupil demand”.

The academy also made savings by moving administration staff onto term-time only contracts – a reduction to 0.87 of the previous salary spend. However this opportunity wasn’t listed in the original SRMA report.

An evaluation of the SRMA trial, finally published last month, found just 16 per cent of the savings identified by advisers had actually been enacted by schools.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the report’s findings exposed “how this shameful government was attempting to pour scorn and ridicule on school leaders by saying they didn’t know how schools could run efficiently and weren’t being frugal enough. But it has been proved that these suggested savings were false ones.”

A Schools Week expose last year revealed some savings included replacing experienced teachers with support staff on term-time contracts, keeping money raised for charity and limiting lunch portions for pupils – the latter of which was at Chapeltown.


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  1. I am sure that many leaders in education would potentially welcome the support from resource management advisers, and I am equally sure they could really help some schools make worthwhile savings. Anyone who has worked with a good school business manager knows their absolute value at achieving efficiency and savings.
    But the hype, lies and over-claims from Agnew and elements within the DfE about ‘schools wastefulness’ and inflated savings successes run a grave risk of putting the whole scheme into disrepute. It would be a real shame if a potentially good idea is lost in a champagne sea of self-aggrandisement and hype.

  2. My main concern with this scheme is that the reports go to the DfE, allowing them to use the information to feed Lord Agnew’s narrative that there is a lot of waste in schools.

    Ministers are not getting a balanced view; they’re not seeing the sound strategic financial leadership shown by schools that have taken really difficult decisions (without a visit from an SRMA).

    I worry that this information will be used to deny the sector any further funding increases beyond the current plan. We’ve already seen a refusal to fund the 2020 teachers’ pay award on the back of the three-year settlement, but what’s planned will only restore cuts since 2015, and it won’t be distributed consistently – the extra is skewed towards rising rolls and schools that need to catch up with the NFF values.

    What we need is an urgent discussion on what schools are expected to provide with the funding available. Government can’t keep on expecting school staff to plug the gaps in local services that have appeared as a result of austerity cuts, when they are struggling with funding levels that won’t even support a strong education offer in many cases.