Don’t expect to get Covid costs back, schools warned

Schools should be 'careful' measuring Covid spending, as Treasury will assume they're 'profligate', influential MP warns
14th October 2020, 7:31pm

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Don’t expect to get Covid costs back, schools warned

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/dont-expect-get-covid-costs-back-schools-warned
Coronavirus: Schools Need To Be 'careful' In Monitoring Their Extra Spending On Covid Safety Measures, Says Mp Meg Hillier

Schools should get their "bean counters" out to calculate their Covid costs - because failing to watch "every penny" may mean they never see the money again, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee has warned.

Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said it is "really important" that schools keep track of their additional spending on Covid measures.

However, they should be "careful" about how they measure costs, as the Treasury will assume that they are "profligate" by "default", she said.


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Speaking in this afternoon's NAHT school leaders' union webinar on school funding, Ms Hillier said: "It is really important you just get your bean counters in the school - it really matters now. If you're not watching every penny, don't expect to get it back later. I think there is a real concern there."

Coronavirus: Will schools get extra funding?

Minister Nick Gibb said last month that schools should draw on their £4 billion reserves to pay for Covid-19 safety measures.

Schools have been able to claim for extra costs incurred through Covid-19 up until July, capped at £75,000.

They were not eligible for the funding if they expected to add to their historical surpluses in the current financial year.

Asked today if a commitment had been made for schools' Covid costs to be picked up by the government, Ms Hillier said: "At the moment, it's not certain what money will come to schools directly.

"Local authorities are already being underfunded for what they're spending on Covid. What I would say is that the Treasury, we pushed them to keep a track right from day one - when people were saying, 'Save lives, don't look at the money,' I said, 'No, we must keep looking at the money, because if we don't there will be huge problems down the line,' as we are already beginning to see.

"So keep attaching it to that cost code, keep measuring it, but be very careful about how you measure it, because the Treasury by default will always assume we're being profligate...that you, local authorities, are just splashing money around unnecessarily. I overemphasise for effect.

"But they will want to know that there isn't dead weight money in there - that you are not adding in to those cost centres things that you should already be paying for. Even if you don't have enough money normally, you do need to be clear why it's Covid-specific. So things like extra supply teachers is relatively straightforward, over your normal averages."

She added: "If there's any way you can measure against your normal spend in normal years, particularly over more than one year, say over a three-year period, and you've got those figures - if you're a big secondary or a multi-academy trust this should be easy to do - you need to be watching that, because the Treasury will be looking closely at it.

"And if you're an academy, of course, you're funded directly from government, and if you're a local authority school there will be a wrangle between councils...education authorities and the department, potentially, over this."

The Department for Education was contacted for comment.

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