Headteachers have written to school standards minister Nick Gibb to complain about an “insultingly pathetic” intervention aimed at helping schools save money.
Over the past week, the Department for Education has sent schools a “benchmarking report card” comparing their spending with supposedly similar schools.
It also advises schools on ways they can save money, at a time when they are facing real-terms cuts of 5 per cent over four years.
But the document has been criticised as “useless” by the leader of the Worth Less? funding campaign representing 6,000 schools across 35 counties.
Jules White, headteacher of Tanbridge House School, in West Sussex, has told Mr Gibb: “The quality of the information provided is superficial at best and insultingly pathetic at worst.”
He pointed to the document’s advice that “simply spending a greater proportion of a school budget on teaching does not guarantee results”.
The document adds that “efficiencies in administrative expenditure could be made by upskilling staff, changing professional services suppliers or reducing waste”.
And, it says: “Keeping a modest balance from year to year is prudent, but if a school or trust is building up a substantial surplus there should be a clear plan on how it will be used to benefit pupils.”
Mr White has pointed out to Mr Gibb that, as an “experienced headteacher of 10 years standing”, these principles are not new to him.
His letter states: “At a time of a school funding crisis, it is extraordinary that the Department for Education believes that such advice carries any meaningful help for head teachers, their business managers and governing bodies/trusts.”
His own school – an “outstanding” rated secondary with 1,420 pupils, has been benchmarked against a middle school that closed last year after reporting below-average stage 2 results, and a school in North Yorkshire with only 329 pupils.
Mr White concludes: “They [the benchmarking reports] are useless and must cost considerable amounts in terms of time, staffing and resource. Were head teachers to be so profligate then we would be rightly held to account and pilloried by all and sundry.”
The DfE has been contacted for comment.