The High Cost of the Government’s Policy Failures

NUT Conference 2017

16 April 2017

Commenting on NUT research which reveals that the Government wasted £138.5 million of taxpayers’ money on 62 free schools, UTCs and studio schools which have either closed, partially closed or failed to open at all, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“These figures make clear that the free school, UTC and studio school programmes were ill-thought policies which, in many cases, resulted in an appalling waste of significant sums of money – in the case of the closed UTCs, an average of £10m was spent on each school, rising to £15m in the case of Tottenham UTC. That sums of this magnitude have been thrown away at a time when schools across the country are crying out for funding for staff, to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and to ensure essential resources and equipment are available, is criminal. Ministers should apologise to teachers and parents.

“To put the significance of this wasted money in context, £138.5 million would:

  • provide 39% of the funding needed to ensure that no school loses funding in cash terms as a result of the introduction of the Government’s proposed new National Funding Formula; or
  • restore 14% of the cuts to real-terms value of per-pupil funding since the 2015 election; or
  • provide £6,586 for every school in England; or
  • fund the employment of 3,680 teachers for a year.

“The true cost of these policy failures is even greater. There is a human cost in the disruption caused to the education of the thousands of those pupils who attended schools which have closed. Usually it is local authorities who have had to pick up the pieces by finding alternative places for the displaced children.

“The NUT’s biggest concern is that the Government is intent on proceeding with these programmes despite growing evidence that the UTC and studio schools programmes cannot attract sufficient numbers of pupils. Furthermore, as the National Audit Office has highlighted, free schools are an expensive alternative to maintained schools when the cost per place is taken into account and they are often failing to provide places in the parts of the country that most need them. [1]

“The Government has shown that it has completely the wrong priorities for education. The ideological drive to introduce markets and competition by creating yet more types of school has been a disaster pursued without thought for its financial cost or the price paid by those children and their families whom the Government has so badly let down. It is now time to drop these failed programmes and focus on what works.

[1] National Audit Office, Capital funding for schools (22 February 2017), page 6. Available here.

Editor’s Note
The NUT’s Annual Conference is taking place this Easter weekend in Cardiff. For the Final Agenda, please click here.

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