01 July 2009 | Allie Anderson
Schools in the UK would be able to save £400 million a year through more efficient spending, according to a report by the Audit Commission.
The review, published yesterday, said UK schools spending in 2007 and 2008 had increased 56 per cent in the past decade to more than £31 billion.
Audit Commission chairman Michael O'Higgins said schools have not been held to account for inefficient spending because the spotlight for the past decade has been on results. Schools watchdog Ofsted has made educational standards and teaching practices the focus of annual inspections and councils have not paid attention to economic efficiency in their support of schools, the report said.
"Now is a good time for schools to look for better value from the money they get," said O'Higgins. "Budgets are growing more slowly and schools need to start planning for an austere future. We believe savings could be made without adversely affecting pupils or their education."
The Commission found some schools could claw back £80 million on cleaning and caretaking services and £65 million on administrative supplies. It added they could also improve value for money by incorporating staffing costs in development plans and benchmarking high costs.
The Commission will work with Ofsted to make sure it is better equipped to assess value for money and will offer councils, governors and school staff better guidance on financial planning.