‘Crisis? What crisis?’ says the new schools commissioner

30th November 2018 at 15:01

England’s school system is not on the verge of a funding crisis, the Department for Education’s new national schools commissioner, Dominic Herrington, has insisted.

This statement – which is no doubt in line with approved government PR – won’t surprise many teachers. After all, our cash-strapped schools have been fed the “record levels of funding” line by the DfE many times already.

Earlier this year, an investigation by the UK Statistics Authority into the DfE’s claims that it was spending “record amounts” on school funding resulted in a subsequent “we must do better” statement from the department’s permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater.

Anyway, back to Herrington, a civil servant and former regional schools commissioner who took over from Sir David Carter, a former head, in the summer. In an exclusive interview, he said that he disagreed with accountants who said that academies were running out of money.

While he told Tes that there was a “big challenge” in school funding, “it’s not on the verge of insolvency or bankruptcy”.

He cited controversial comments from Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman last month claiming there was no evidence that school cuts were affecting the quality of education. He also referenced this year’s rise in Year 1 pupils passing the phonics check.

Herrington dismissed the findings of a joint Tes and National Governance Association survey in which three-quarters of governors raised concerns that funding pressures would damage the quality of education.

Speaking from his experience as a school governor, he said: “In our school, the results were the highest they have ever been last year, so I don’t think you can causally say therefore because of a governors’ survey there is, therefore, a definitive causal relationship with the quality of education.”

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