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Ex-DfE chief suggests small schools ‘could close to save cash’…
16th March 2014
Sir David Bell, former chief civil servant, has suggested that they should consider axing small schools following concern that they are a drain on the public finances. Mergers requiring schools to federate under an executive head teacher and closure of small primary schools to create better value-for-money, therefore freeing cash for universities, is part of the suggested way forward. Lifting the ring-fencing of the school budget would also focus the Headteachers, who Bell suggests have “taken their foot off the efficiency pedal”.
Bell raises these options amid the continuing concerns over budgetary cuts of a further £105m in 2014/15 for higher education on top of reductions in previous years.
“We have had quite a long period of protection for school budgets and for health, and it is worthwhile asking ourselves whether this is the right approach.”
He added: “I wonder whether, if you have the continual ring-fence protection, you just take the foot off the efficiency pedal. There is less incentive to look at how you do things and be as efficient as possible… After 15 years of protected spending in schools, are we seriously arguing there is no room for greater efficiencies in the next period?”
These comments are likely to anger heads that already argue that protection for schools is not enough. Critics of the proposal suggest that there are alternative options available. Last year alone local authority-run schools were sitting on £2.2bn of unspent money which could be used to make costs saving.
The debate continues.
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