DfE army of cost-cutters extended after visiting 1,000 schools

The government's school resource management adviser (SRMA) programme will run until 2024.

The government's school resource management adviser (SRMA) programme will run until 2024.

11 Sep 2021, 4:00

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Correction: This article has been substantially changed to delete references to the school resource management adviser scheme being cut back. Despite requests for comment before publication, the Department for Education provided fresh information that corrected its own tender documents after Schools Week went to press.

The government has expanded its army of school cost-cutters, confirming its school resource management adviser programme will run until at least 2024.

Schools Week revealed this year that the Department for Education wanted to recruit up to four providers to supply SRMAs to schools under a £6.7 million contract.

The DfE has now confirmed that two providers, the Institute of School Business Leadership and North Yorkshire County Council, have won contracts to deliver the next round of the scheme from September. ISBL currently runs the scheme.

They are expected to ensure a supply of “at least 200” advisers between them up to 2024, who will be available free of charge to schools over the three-year period. This will include both co-ordinating already-accredited advisers and recruiting and training new ones.

The latest tender documents say the contract is worth £1.14 million. Previous documents had previously outlined a £6.7 million plan to supply 200 advisers “per year over the next three years”, suggesting up to 600 new recruits.

Schools Week approached the DfE to clarify the apparent cutbacks, but the DfE only confirmed 200 advisors were being recruited. The DfE then claimed after publication that recruiting 200 advisers had always been the plan, and funding was not being cut.

Officials said £1.14 million is only the part of the funds set aside for suppliers’ fixed costs, with further fees for advisers are expected to be in the millions up to 2024.

The DfE describes SRMAs’ service to schools as “expert support to help them make best use of their available resources”. Former academies minister Lord Agnew, who launched the scheme, previously claimed his advisers found £35 million of “essentially misdirected resources” in a pilot.

But Schools Week discovered that one school was told to replace experienced teachers with support staff to save money, with another advised to cut lunch portion sizes for pupils.

The pilot review found that schools were able to implement only half the recommended savings within the next few years.

Baroness Berridge, the academies minister, said SRMAs had helped more than 1,000 schools already and become “system leaders and vital partners”, encouraging schools to seek their help.

A separate contract was offered to “develop and deliver a consistent induction service and a robust accreditation process” for SRMAs, won by Education Performance Improvement. Nathan Jeremiah, managing director of EPI, urged school business professionals to consider becoming SRMAs, and said it was “proud to continue supporting the programme”.

ISBL is also currently recruiting 50 people with experience as chief financial officers to mentor other CFOs, after winning a related 12-month contract to run a DfE programme piloting such support.

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