Education Secretary and his vision – where is he taking education?
As the new term begins, teachers are preparing themselves for an exciting year of inspiring students to reach milestones and challenging them to fulfil their potential. But whilst the educators across the land have plans and goals that are in the best interests of their pupils, is the Education Secretary getting top marks?
With the Department for Education unveiling its new strategy to help schools to reduce spending, for some it’s left a bitter taste after Education Secretary Damian Hinds also announcing that the likelihood of extra funding is slim to none. Bearing this in mind, it’s not surprising that many educators are unimpressed with the School Resource Management Strategy, which focuses on reducing spending in areas as varied as insurance, photocopying and even water bills.
This follows a funding squeeze that has resulted in many teacher redundancies nationwide, a sore point that was barely soothed by Hinds pointing out that “compared to twenty years ago we spend considerably more per pupil”. Whilst this is a fact, equally solid is the statistic that school funding has been cut by 8% since 2010.
It’s not all bad news though and we certainly don’t want to come across as flippant regarding the new strategy. The department says that better procurement and government-approved deals on energy bills have helped schools to save £106 million during 2016-17, which is nothing to be sniffed at.
One school in particular has saved £200,000 by reviewing its utilities and maintenance costs, whilst an academy trust managed to cut £55,000 from its expenditure simply by aligning the timings of the teaching day in all of its schools. This type of practical and defined activity could potentially be the answer to many problems, especially when it comes with additional benefits, such as one school considering selling £40,000 of unused equipment that will also free up valuable space.
Perhaps this approach is a healthy one, motivating schools to fully analyse their current setup and pinpointing areas that can be improved. It doesn’t have to be a case of being painfully thrifty, but rather taking greater ownership over how money is being spent, reducing unnecessary costs and adopting a more sustainable mindset. After all, in a world of payday loans, online gambling and one-click shopping, students are taught to understand how to look after their money, so it’s only right that educators lead by example.
The question lies in whether the new Education Secretary’s vision and new strategy will help schools in the long run. Saving on bills, using less paper and selling superfluous hardware can only go so far, so what happens when every school has reached the maximum level of budgeting and still lacks proper resources or is understaffed? With so many teachers spending their own cash on classroom materials, frugality should surely work in unison with funding. Only time will tell and hopefully the Education Secretary will deliver. To read the School Resource Management Strategy in detail, click here.