Minister bets champagne that schools are wasting money

Lord Agnew lays down challenge but says he is 'like a pig hunting for truffles' when it comes to finding waste

Champagne

A Department for Education minister has bet a bottle of champagne for any school where he cannot find waste.

Academies minister Lord Agnew invited schools to take up his "wager", but warned he was "like a pig hunting for truffles" when it came to identifying inefficiencies. 

Lord Agnew, the multi-millionaire businessman who founded the Inspiration Trust academy chain in the East of England, was appointed a minister in September 2017.

Appearing at the School and Academies Show in Birmingham this morning, he was asked whether there was still further scope for schools to make savings, or whether they just needed more funding. 

“I think we’re only just getting warmed up on this, but I have to admit I’m like a pig hunting for truffles when it comes to finding waste in schools," he replied.

He then proceeded to lay down a challenge to school leaders in the room and those across the country.

Can schools save more money?

“I would challenge anyone here, if they want to have a wager with me, that I can’t find some waste in your schools. I will take you on," he said. 

"I will use the teams I’ve got at the DfE to win that wager. If I lose the wager, which is entirely possible, I promise to give you a bottle of champagne and a letter of commendation.

"So is there anybody in there today who wants to take on that challenge?"

Several people in the room put up their hands, and Lord Agnew instructed an aide to get their details.

He told the room he was "not being flippant about this".

"What I’m desperately trying to do is spread good practice," he said. 

"I know it can be seen as patronising when ministers stand on stages and tell schools how to run themselves. That is not what I’m trying to do. What I’m trying to do is to spread the good practice that is out here."

He added: “I’m genuinely up for the debate and if anyone wants to take me up on this I would be delighted.”

Tes reported earlier today that Lord Agnew had dispatched financial troubleshooters to schools who had on average identified £500,000 of wasted money per school.

Last week, the minister acknowledged that it was a "challenge" getting schools to take advantage of money-saving commercial deals arranged by the DfE.

He told a conference of school business managers that one reason could be that the deals are "pants".

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