The assembly government's much-touted review of education spending will cost the taxpayer more than pound;180,000 in consultancy fees for around six weeks' work, TES Cymru can reveal.
Auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has been awarded the contract to carry out the first stage of the spending review, which will look at the costs of administering education in Wales.
Education minister Leighton Andrews has said he wants the results on his desk by the end of March, with recommendations for making savings and opportunities to move resources to front line services.
It is part of his pledge to reduce the pupil spending gap between Wales and England, which currently results in Welsh pupils having pound;527 a year less spent on their schooling. However, PWC is being paid pound;183,300 for the report, raising concerns that money is being wasted.
Anna Brychan, director of teaching union NAHT Cymru, said: "That's an eye- popping sum - especially given that the minister wants the report finished by the end of next month, which makes it a lot of money for a short project."
Rex Phillips, Wales organiser of teaching union the NASUWT, said pound;183,300 may seem a small price to pay if it increases pupil spending in the long- run. "Of course, if the purpose of the review is to seek a justification for the pound;527 funding gap, it will be viewed as a waste of public money," he said.
"The one thing that's for sure is that PWC will be pound;183,300 to the good while teachers and support staff face yet another round of redundancies this year."
Mr Phillips said the auditors must set out a strategy to address the funding anomalies that exist at both country and county level.
Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said: "At first glance this does seem a lot of public money, and some have questioned why the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) couldn't have done the review itself.
"That said, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We will want to see that the review saves considerably more money than it costs.
"Also, there may be things that independent reviewers can say that DCELLS could not. One thinks immediately of the cost of operating 22 local education bureaucracies. Once the report is public we hope it will be clear that it's been money well spent."
A spokesman for the Assembly government refused to comment on the use of external consultants.