A handy guide to the DfE's new cost-saving toolkit

The Department for Education has today published lots of information, all related to its new drive to help schools ‘get the best value for every pound spent’ and save money on the sector’s current £10 billion non-staffing costs.

The main document is guidance titled ‘Supporting excellent school resource management’, which is a pretty neat toolkit of all the government’s money-saving plans.

It’s also pretty lengthy, but fear not – Schools Week has pulled out the key details for you.

 

1. Managing the school workforce

 

What the DfE already does to help

There is a workforce planning guide to help schools review staffing structures, with evidence on the effective use of staff, as well as a toolkit for schools to help reduce unnecessary workload (although this was helpfully published on the first Saturday after schools had broken up for the summer holidays).

There’s also a handy step-by-step guide for getting the most out of the new apprenticeship levy.

 

What’s coming up

The government wants schools to get a better deal from supply agencies. We’ve written before about how some heads feared they were being massively ripped off with big agency fees. Ministers are hoping their supply teacher framework which will help with transparency over agency fees. You can read more about that here.

The DfE is also developing a free teacher vacancy listing website to help drive down recruitment costs. It’s currently being piloted in two areas, and will be rolled out to more schools and teachers.

 

2. Better value procurement

 

What the DfE already does to help

The department has a risk protection arrangement as an alternative to commercial insurance for academies and free schools.

There’s also a pool of ‘recommended deals’ to help provide the best value on things such as IT and energy deals. Ministers also hold some strong views about savings.  For instance, Lord Agnew has been pretty vocal about the need for schools to stop photocopying in colour.

 

What’s coming up

The government risk protection will be rolled out to also cover overseas travel and ‘cultural assets’. And those deals for schools will continue to be updated. The DfE says schools have reported savings of up to 40 per cent by switching to a nationally negotiated rate for photocopiers, printers and scanners.

 

3. Data and transparency

 

What the DfE already does to help

One document sets out a top 10 planning checks for governors, with key metrics to make sure a school is “operating efficiently”. There’s also a financial benchmarking service, so schools can compare their spending with others.

 

What’s coming up

Not much here, just updates to the above, it seems.

 

4. Financial skills

 

What the DfE already does to help

There is currently lots of curriculum planning tools, as well as case studies showing the benefits of having “strong” school business professionals, who can also help create networks in their area.

 

What’s coming up

Just more updates, but there is a vague commitment to “work with the sector to produce guidance on different forms of income generation”, so “all schools are better able to raise extra income and benefit the community”. It doesn’t say how.

 

5. Oversight, intervention and targeted support

 

What the DfE already does to help

Officials are running a pilot which involves sending school resource management advisers (normally serving, expert school business leaders) to work with schools on managing cost pressures.

 

What’s coming up

As revealed by Schools Week, the DfE has hailed the pilot as a success, and is now massively ramping up its team of money-saving consultants, aiming to recruit at least 160 to go into struggling schools and help them balance the books.

 

6. Improving the infrastructure of the school estate

 

What the DfE already does to help

It has published details of funding routes to support capital works, and a “good estate management for schools” advice guide.

 

What’s coming up

The department says it will work with local authorities to manage spare capacity in their areas. Officials will also improve data on the school estate using the “condition data collection” to help target funding where it’s actually needed most.