In 2009-10 the education budget runs to £66,700,000,000. £10,000,000,000 of that goes on teachers pensions. £6,500,000,000 is spending on new and improved buildings.
The Education department itself spends £182,000,000 on administration, with 2,842 staff. All this in what is meant to be a decentralised service, run by Local Education Authorities, Boards of Governors and Headteachers. 20 staff members are paid more than £95,000 a year.
As if the central team were not enough, there are numerous national quangos. There is the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, the National College for School leadership, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Training and Development Agency for Schools, Ofsted and the Sector Skills Development Agency amongst others.
There is substantial overlap between central staff, regional staff in Offices of the regions, and the LEAS. There is also scope for amalgamation and reduction of the national quangos. We should move to a more decentralised service, where the demand for central highly paid staff is much reduced.
The government has managed to combine large increases in centralised bureaucracy, circulars, regulations and requirements with overlapping layers of government and intrusive national quangos. The aim should be to free state schools of much of this burden, leaving them freer to make their own decisions,and to attract pupils by their excellence. Healthy competition between schools, giving parents and pupils more choice, is the best way to drive standards up. We could then save much of the money spent on Labour’s top heavy top down bureaucracy. I have always favoured ending the apartheid in English education. All schools should be independent, with free places for all in independent schools that offer a good standard and good value for money. There should be more effective choice for parents. The rich could still choose to spend more of their own money on schools of their choice.
As we will see as we go through the accounts fo the main departments, certain themes are common to all. They have too many quangos, they have too many expensive top staff, they bloat their advertising and spin budgets, and too much is done in the centre. A purge at the top would be a good start for any cost cutting exercise.