School standards at risk from significant financial pressures

Published on: 31 March 2017

Pupils’ futures are at risk if the Department for Education fails to act on the warnings in our report.

It sets out more evidence of what increasingly appears to be a collective delusion in Government about the scope for further efficiency savings in public services.

Unrealistic efficiency targets imposed on the NHS, together with weak leadership from the centre, have caused long-term damage to the finances of NHS trusts struggling to meet increasing demand.

Government must not allow this to happen in schools but there are troubling similarities in its approach—similarities the Department for Education is unwilling to recognise.

It must not be deaf to the experiences of head teachers who, as we heard in evidence, have already had to make potentially damaging cuts in areas such as maintenance, teacher recruitment and pastoral services.

The Education Funding Agency’s record on intervention, as well as its failure to evaluate whether its interventions are helping schools to address financial risk, does not inspire confidence.

Government must take all necessary steps to ensure it can intervene quickly if action taken by schools to meet efficiency targets risks damaging standards.

That means properly monitoring in real-time performance as well as spending, making use of frontline indicators such as class sizes, the ratio of pupils to teachers and the breadth of the curriculum.

Senior officials in the Department must ask themselves: what more can we do to help schools meet our targets?

Grand plans drawn up in Whitehall are dangerous if they are implemented without regard to real-world consequences and we will expect to see measures to address our concerns as a matter of urgency.

You can read the report in full here.