Despite government plans to teach children ‘money management’ lessons from the age of five, thousands of schools that have effectively controlled their finances are facing unpleasant repercussions. The Department for Children, Schools, and Families has released the expenditure of our schools and seeks to ‘name and shame’ those that have amassed significant surpluses. Headteachers of such schools have been warned that they should return ‘extra’ money to their local authorities, and might well be forced to do so under law.
This is an absurd idea: punishing schools for prudence and careful budgeting will simply lead to a further degeneration in the quality of the country’s education. Most schools control spending and generate surpluses in order to invest in large projects or improved facilities, such as a new science lab. Compelling schools to spend their entire budget each year creates little incentive to take a long-term view to investment for either the school or its pupils. By frittering away money for the sake of it, this creates an even greater waste of taxpayer’s money.
While we rightly don’t like the idea of schools hoarding public money for the wrong reasons, the best way to combat this (and solve many other problems) would be through educational reform. With vouchers Parents should be free to send their children to the school of their choice, with the money following the child. In this way, schools which appear to stockpile funds yet make scant improvements would see themselves very short on pupils and money.