The Department for Education’s previously unpublished school “potential savings” figures provide a breakdown of how the department believes schools can make a range of savings, across different areas of spending.
Officials grouped similar schools together, based on the phase of education taught, attainment scores, location, levels of disadvantage, levels of special educational needs and schools’ organisational structure – for example, if they are part of a multi-academy trust.
They then compared the per-pupil amount spent by schools under 12 separate budget headings, including supply staff, teachers, consultants and catering.
England’s schools were then grouped into percentiles according to the amount they spent under each heading. Officials calculated that just over £1 billion would be saved if the top 10 per cent of spenders in each budget area came down to the level of spending of schools in the 90th percentile.
A bigger amount – £2.54 billion – would be saved if the top 25 per cent of spenders only spent as much as schools at the 75th percentile. If the top 40 per cent of spenders came down to the 60th percentile, £4.13 billion would be saved.
In the most extreme scenario considered by officials, if the top 50 per cent of spenders reduced their costs to the median, this would produce £5.32 billion of savings.
The £3 billion saving that the DfE told the NAO was required was somewhere between the 60th and 75th percentile. This assumed that £1.3 billion of savings would come from procurement, with a further £1.7 billion from staffing.
The Tes analysis used the proportions of savings made under each budget heading under the 60th and 75th percentiles to work out the equivalent proportions for an overall £3 billion in savings.
The freedom of information response containing the unpublished data explains: “The analysis produced a broad range of potential savings to illustrate what schools could achieve. The benchmarking analysis [shows] significant variation in spending across similar schools with similar characteristics and achieving similar outcomes.”