Small schools ‘could close to save cash for universities’, says ex-DfE chief

The Telegraph is reporting that the DfE’s former chief civil servant is recommending ministers should consider axing small schools amid fears parts of the education system are acting as a drain on the public finances…

Sir David Bell said the Government should investigate the merger or even closure of some small primaries to create more value-for-money and divert cash to universities.

He suggested the existing ring-fence around the schools budget should be scrapped after the next General Election because it has allowed head teachers to “take the foot off the efficiency pedal”.

Sir David, who quit as permanent secretary of the DfE in late 2011 to take over as vice-chancellor of Reading University, said cuts could be made to the £35 billion schools budget without damaging standards.

Small schools – in particular – are in need of reform because a large amount of money must be spent propping up institutions with typically with fewer than 100 pupils, he said.

Speaking just days before the Chancellor releases the 2014 Budget, he said ministers should consider requiring multiple schools to federate under the leadership of an executive head teacher or all-out closure in some extreme cases.

Sir David said it was no longer the “right approach” to protect spending on schools, the NHS and international development – a cornerstone of Coalition economic policy – while expecting major cuts to universities, defence, local government and policing…

“I suspect that in some parts of the country we have smaller schools that don’t always offer the best education and actually with a stronger efficiency drive you may get better education by drawing schools together,” he said. “Where you maybe have one executive head who has responsibility for many schools, you take out some of the administration costs.”

Asked whether closures should be considered, he said: “In some cases you might, in some cases you are just talking about organising and managing them differently.”

More at: Small schools ‘could close to save cash’, says ex-DfE chief

How do you react to these comments from Sir David Bell? Are small schools an unnecessary luxury? Should alternative models be considered to running them more efficiently? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments or via Twitter… 

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Categories: Policy.


  1. Organic_Jane

    SchoolsImprove Codswallop and piffle. Back office staff to fill out all the forms/monitor spending.No TAs = kids not accessing education.

  2. elcapitanleics

    SchoolsImprove I disagree totally because money needs to be spent on early education otherwise there won’t be anyone to go to university

  3. VictoriaJaquiss

    SchoolsImprove Thought it was established going to uni for its own sake was pointless & expensive luxury. Whereas small local primaries . .

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