Top DfE boss: Our cost-cutting consultants found £10m savings in UTCs

Government cost-saving consultants have been parachuted into most of the country’s university technical colleges to help them tackle soaring deficits, it has been revealed.

Jonathan Slater, the Department for Education’s top civil servant, told MPs on the public accounts committee today that school resource management advisers had identified around £10 million of savings in 33 of England’s 48 UTCs.

Created in 2018, the SRMA scheme involves consultants, usually school business professionals, going into schools to help leaders identify potential savings.

The scheme faced criticism last year when Schools Week revealed that some of the advisers had recommended that schools limit lunch portions and use spare staff to cover lessons, instead of supply teachers.

Slater’s comments come after a damning report by the National Audit Office found the struggling technical institutions account for almost 10 per cent of revenue deficits reported by all academy trusts. Ten UTCs have so far closed, blaming low pupil numbers and poor financial health, and many that remain are still struggling.

The DfE’s permanent secretary told the committee that of the £10 million of potential savings identified by SRMAs, £4.3 million have been achieved.

Slater also faced questions about the amount spent on building UTCs. So far, the scheme has accrued capital costs of £680 million, working out as £50,000 per pupil.

But the civil servant said this ignored the fact that the DfE has made “alternative use” of the buildings of UTCs that closed.

“We want to make sure that all of that capital – land, buildings, equipment – is reused,” he said.

In 2016, Schools Week revealed how one UTC was being used as temporary accommodation for young professionals, though most sites have now been taken on by other education providers.