Pet projects put on back-burner as ministers grapple with school funding problems. Jon Slater reports
CIVIL servants have been ordered to cut millions of pounds from their pet projects to free money for hard-up schools, The TES has learnt.
Budgets at the Department for Education and Skills and its quangos are being re-examined in an attempt to alleviate this year's funding problems and to prevent a similar crisis next year.
The crackdown, ordered by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, shows just how worried ministers remain about the effect of the funding crisis on schools.
Clearly they remain sensitive to criticism from opposition politicians and council leaders that it is central, not local, government which has held on to money intended for schools.
Two weeks ago a TES survey showed that 1,000 teachers and hundreds of support staff are to be made redundant this September.
This week Tony Blair told that Commons around 500 teachers were being made redundant from schools in England: half the cuts were deficit-related.
More than pound;500 million of taxpayers' money is being shared by the four school-related quangos this year. Administration costs have increased by more than 50 per cent in the past three years.
Last year, the 10 non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) associated with the DfES spent pound;380m on administration. This excludes the pound;200m costs of the Office for Standards in Education as the inspectorate is a government department rather than a quango.
The Teacher Training Agency often struggles to spend its budget. TTA officials have been asked to return pound;14m, equivalent to 4 per cent of its pound;384.5m budget.
A spokesman for the Learning and Skills Council, which is responsible for FE and school sixth-form funding, said: "This is something we are looking at. If less is spent on administration then more can be given to front-line services."
The National College for School Leadership, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency denied being asked to make cuts.
Heather du Quesnay, chief executive of the NCSL, said: "We realise this is a tough time and like all well-managed organisations, the NCSL keeps its budgets under constant review."
The DfES denied it was cutting quango budgets but Mr Clarke needs to prove education spending is efficient if he is to win more money for schools from the Treasury to avoid teacher redundancies next year.
He has already warned Downing Street that this may be necessary as schools'
costs are expected to continue rising at their present rate for at least another year.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has said he will not give extra money to departments that are not making the best use of resources.
Headteachers are also putting pressure on Mr Clarke. The National Association of Head Teachers has reiterated its threat to pull out of the agreement to cut teachers' workload unless more money is found. The Secondary Heads Association is also demanding more money this year although it still backs the workload deal.
Workload threat, 4 Funding, 14, Management, 35
Last year's admin costs
Department for Education and Skills 238
Adult Learning Inspectorate 23
British Educational Communications and Technology Agency 4
Higher Education Funding Council 16
Investors in People UK 6
Learning and Skills Council 230
National College for School Leadership 6
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority 32
Sector Skills Development Agency 4
Student Loans Company 50
Teacher Training Agency 10
Source: DfES annual report (20023)