THE civil servants responsible for sorting out schools' funding and running the education service are costing the taxpayer pound;126 million a year in salaries.
Nearly 4,500 staff at the Department for Education and Skills cost an average of pound;28,000 each.
Their number is set to increase by a further 300 this year, adding an estimated pound;8m to the wage bill.
Although staffing is set to be reduced slightly in subsequent years, ministers show few signs of willingness to make significant cuts despite the widespread threat of teacher redundancies and complaints from headteachers that central administration is too expensive.
Wages of senior civil servants have risen sharply. According to the 2002 DfES annual report, in November 2001, no civil servant in the department earned more than pound;90,000 per year.
Figures released this week show that by April 1 last year 16 did so and 10 had salaries in excess of pound;100,000.
Accusations that ministers put spin before substance were substantiated by their admission that the DfES press office costs taxpayers more than pound;1.2m a year, an increase of pound;150,000 since 1999. The 23 press officers cost the the education budget an average of pound;55,000 each.
This year alone, the DfES will spend pound;216m on running costs and pound;27m on research and publicity, up from pound;16m when Labour came to power in 1997.
The total spending on advertising by the DfES (and its predecessor the Department for Education and Employment) since 1997 is pound;194m, and the annual budget tripled during the party's first term.
High-profile campaigns have included promotion of the Connexions advice service for young people and the New Deal for the unemployed.
In 2002, market research for publicity campaigns cost in excess of pound;2.5m.
But the figures do not include the pound;10m "no one forgets a good teacher" or current "those who can, teach" campaigns because they were commissioned by the Teacher Training Agency.
John Dunford general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:
"No limits seem to be placed on the number of additional civil servants needed to administer the centralised control of education.
"The Government should set a target to reduce these numbers in order to get money into school budgets where it is really needed."