An overview of school workforce spending: better value for money in schools

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Audit Commission for Local Authorities and the National Health Service in England
Audit Commission
Education and Skills
Social welfare
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The 2009 Audit Commission report, Valuable Lessons, examined value for money in schools spending, identifying £425 million that could be saved if schools procured goods and services more effectively. The 2010 Spending Review will also oblige schools to focus closely on how they use staff resources, since they absorb three-quarters of their budgets. School leaders, governing bodies and councils are increasingly thinking about how they can reduce expenditure without compromising effectiveness. Alongside this paper a set of briefings are being published that are designed to help schools and their partners to identify ways to do so.

Subject to certain limitations, such as the need to teach the National Curriculum, schools are largely financially autonomous; they make their own decisions on structuring and managing staff and decide how to apply national salary frameworks. This flexibility is likely to increase further with the government's 2010 White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, setting out the desire for maintained schools to become more autonomous. In addition, the provisions of the Academies Act, passed in July 2010, and the coalition’s Free Schools policy have already increased the number of schools operating outside local authority control. While the briefings examine only maintained schools, the findings should be relevant to decisions taken by Academies and in the future by Free Schools.

Maintained schools in England spent over £35 billion in 2009/10, some £5,000 on average per pupil. They have seen a large increase in available funds, with spending increasing by 28 per cent since 2002/03. Workforce has been a central focus of this investment, with the greatest proportion, £19 billion, spent on teachers. Since 1997 the number of teachers in England has increased by 8 per cent. With a concurrent drop in pupil numbers, the ratio of teachers to pupils has increased by 9 per cent. A focus on value for money is timely. The increases in school funding that schools have enjoyed over the last decade are now slowing. The October 2010 Spending Review allocated budget increases of 0.1 per cent annually by 2014/15. There will be additional resources for schools provided through the new pupil premium. School leaders and governing bodies need to understand the costs and benefits of different models of staff deployment in order to manage their staffing resources well.

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