England’s school system is not even on the verge of a funding crisis, the DfE’s new schools tsar has insisted. Tes reports.
Dominic Herrington’s comments, in his first major interview since becoming interim national schools commissioner in September, come despite teachers, MPs, ex-ministers and funding experts all pointing to the growing funding problems in schools.
However, Mr Herrington told Tes: “I don’t agree [the school system] is on the verge of a crisis but I am acutely conscious of the pressures that schools and academy trusts face, both professionally and personally, and I think our job is to make sure we help those trusts as best we can.”
But Mr Herrington rejected a warning in this year’s annual Kreston Academies Benchmark report that the academy sector could be “on the verge of insolvency” within two or three years unless the government provided further funding.
“I disagree with that analysis,” the civil servant told Tes. “If you look at the percentage of academies that have deficits last year, I think it was 5 or 6 per cent, it was a small number.
“It’s not on the verge of insolvency or bankruptcy.”
Mr Herrington said he speaks to school leaders a lot, and added: “I am very conscious of what is going on and I am very conscious of the challenge, but it is what it is, and we have just got to help, particularly with the non-staff spending aspect of spending in schools, and look for as many efficiencies as we can find there.”
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “I’m really not bothered whether Dominic Herrington agrees or not: the facts of the matter don’t support his insouciance.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described Mr Herrington as a “faithful civil servant who has not run a school and had to make the kind of decisions which the people I’m meeting are telling me about”.
“It would simply antagonise my members more to have comments like that because there are some of them who genuinely, with tears in their eyes, say: ‘I cannot continue to restructure this school and to lose more staff.’”
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