How might the Chancellor save money on education? Apart that is from the possible pay freeze? Over the years this blog has explored a number of different possibilities for savings. Two obvious ones are in the teacher preparation market and the cost of advertising vacancies.
The DfE uses the Teacher Supply Model to identify how many places to fund for teacher preparation courses going forward. Each year, it seems to overfund the number of places in subjects such as history and physical education, so that there are always trainees looking for teaching posts at the end of the year. Should the modelling also take into account data about vacancies to match against that of the other inputs, such as pupil numbers and the proxies for vacancies currently used in the model? Possibly several millions could be saved in fees paid to universities.
The other saving championed regularly by this blog, albeit with a degree of self-interest, is the spending on recruitment advertising by schools. The DfE has made an attempt to reduce this expenditure, but it has been half-hearted at best, and lacking in understanding of how the market operates. In the spring I offered the DfE my help in making their site the ‘go to’ place for teachers seeking jobs, but was rebuffed. Fair enough, but it is worth reading my recent post of the £3 a vacancy cost for recruitment.
Supply teaching is another expensive cost to many schools, especially this year with teachers either self-isolating or off sick with covid-19. Could bringing this spending back ‘in house’ save money by removing the profit element from the cost? Worth a look given that perhaps there will be a million supply cover days this term across the country, if the estimate from one authority that I have seen is grossed up.
Procurement in general is a big area for savings, but like these other savings it challenges the assumption that market-based capitalism will regulate prices. That might be true if schools shopped around, but they don’t, and monopolistic suppliers, whether local or national, have few incentives to reduce prices and introduce new technological solutions that can cut costs for schools.
The whole area of leadership costs must be looked at. How many MAT CEOs do we need across the country? How much more does the system cost to manage than 20 years ago, and is any extra value for money as a result? May be the extra high paid jobs are an incentive for more teachers to stay in the system, rather than leave or better paid jobs elsewhere?
School need more funds, and it is worth reflecting what might happen if effective savings are not made quickly? Some small schools will close, some pupils where parents cannot afford to support the school will possibly receive a worse education than they would have do if funding had been better, and teaching will still not be a career of choice, except in a recession. Even then, it needs to be a global recession, as teachers can now find work anywhere around the world.