Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says the Handover report shows that councillors and school governors should check the budgets of schools and LA education spending with care.
How typical of Ed Balls and his wasteful Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) that they should commission a report into the financial management of the state school system, then keep it secret. The review was carried out by former W.H. Smith executive, Richard Handover, who apparently completed it last April.
Yet it has been kept under wraps until, on Sunday, the BBC reported on a leaked copy in their possession. Mr Handover's report painted a damning picture of waste and mismanagement in the state education system. He found that schools fail to track their spending and often spend many times more than they should on equipment and maintenance. Apparently, one primary school spent £50,000 on three lavatories that should have cost £5,000. Another paid £35,000 for a photocopier that should have cost £1.000. Embarrassingly for the government, Mr Handover also suggested that 40,000 teaching assistants should be sacked, which may or may not be sensible. Some teaching assistants do valuable work with special needs children. Others may be a waste of time and money.
As The Daily Telegraph reported, 'The London Institute of Education found that teaching assistants reduce teachers' stress levels but do not boost pupils' progress. In some cases, children supported by teaching assistants made less progress than similar children without help from an assistant.' Meanwhile, it is generally accepted that though state schools do waste money, most of the financial waste in the education sector is at national and local government level.
There's not only massive waste, it's impossible accurately to trace money from the DCSF to local authorities to schools. Almost invariably, the different levels report different figures. Millions of pounds get lost in the process. For example, the DCSF's Departmental Report in 2004 showed £1.5bn expenditure for unspecified 'miscellaneous programmes'. Now accountability is so lacking that such 'minor' details are not even listed. It's not possible accurately to separate day-to-day revenue funding and capital expenditure. Or to differentiate between spending on the different sectors such as primary, secondary and further education. The whole system from top to bottom is a disgraceful mess. This is something that everyone involved in the management of schools could get their teeth into – and save taxpayers some money.
School governors should check their school budgets for honesty and accuracy; and their local authority's Section 52 budget statement, which covers the LA's central expenditure along with that for all
If the figures don't add up, or don't seem reasonable, demand to know why.
One thing is for sure: your time and effort won't be wasted.